Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Technology: How to Track Site Visits on Your Blog

Want to know how many people are reading your blog? Want to know what country they are from? How they found out about you? It's easy to do. Simply sign up for a free Google Analytics account. After you register your site, GoogleAnalytics will provide you with several lines of code. Copy and paste it into your blog template code. It's as simple as that! And Google Analytics provides more detailed instructions.

So now, if you are reading this, I know it. And I know if you typed in my blog address directly, or if you came here from Facebook.com or Blogger.com or somewhere else! I just don't know who you are. So leave a comment and tell me about yourself.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Children: The Amazing Snot-Sucker

I think suctioning a baby's nose is worse than changing a stinky diaper! They wiggle and squirm and cry. You try to hold them with one arm, hold the aspirator with the other hand, close one nostril with whatever appendage is available, and then try to squeeze the aspirator, get it in their nose, and release the bulb while it's still in their nose. Next to impossible, and I rarely succeeded.

Until I found the battery-operated nasal aspirator by NasalClear. (http://www.bebesounds.com/products_nasalclear_description.asp ) The tip is soft and cushy, so you don't have to worry about jabbing their tender noses. The battery keeps the suction constant, so whenever you manage to get the tip in their nose, it's suctioning. That's important for those of us who aren't coordinated enough to handle the bulb kind. My toddler found the aspirator to be funny. She laughed when the vibrations tickled her nose. And it plays music, which can also be used to distract the child.

The suction works great. There is a clear snot-holder, so you can see what is coming out. (Gross, but at least you know you're being successful!) I got more out with this aspirator than any bulb aspirator I tried.

The only down-side is the clean-up. Like a bulb, it needs to be cleaned after every use. It's not difficult, but watching green snot slide out of the container made me feel a little sick. Now I know why the hospital uses blue aspirators!

If I had endless money at my disposal, I would get the Cleanoz. (http://www.cleanoz.com/). It has a disposable collection cup, so you never have to wash anything. Just replace the disposal cup. Easy! But a little pricey at $7 for 10 disposable tips/collection cups.
Read another review at MommysThinking.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Children: Discounts on Miracle Blanket

If you are interested in purchasing a Miracle Blanket, you can get a discount at Spot4Tots. They are amazing to work with. They give everything the personal touch--even online. And they have three new camouflage patterns you can't get anywhere else, yet. To get a 10% discount, email Rusty@spot4tots.com. Or you can use the NEWPARENT08 code during checkout to get FREE shipping. UPDATE: So many of you are mentioning my blog, they have given me my own discount! YEAH! When you checkout, use the discount code HOLLY. You'll get a 10% discount and free shipping.

Here's the note Spot4Tots sent me telling me about the sales and the new products.

Hello Holly,
Thank you for all your support! The 10% discount is still honored for people who remember the promotion and write to us directly as you just did. We also offer a coupon code NEWPARENT08 and if entered during checkout at http://www.spot4tots.com/ the customer will receive FREE Shipping on anything they purchase.
Here’s a little insider information; we received three new camouflage patterns yesterday and Spot4tots.com will be the only online outlet for these patterns until they reach the retail market in about two months….
Thank you for writing in and remembering us; It’s a rarity to hear back from past customers in this business because once you have your baby and experience what the Miracle Blanket can do, its easily forgotten about unless a second or third baby is in their future. So in essence, our customer turnover is about every four to nine months and our so-called advertising comes from people like you. Here’s a temporary picture of the newest blankets until I get them off to a professional photographer.
As always…. grateful.

Miracle Blanket DST

Friday, January 25, 2008

Beauty: Holly's Looking for the Ultimate No-Show, No-Ride Panties

I need your help! I'm looking for the Ultimate No-Show, No-Ride Panties. What have you tried? Let me know what you loved and what you hated. I'll let you know what people find to be the most popular. And try to include a general price range. $5 a pair, etc.

What I have liked:

Hanes Perfect Panties in the boyshort style. They stayed in place and I didn't have lines. But after several times through the laundry, they lost their stay-put-ieness. Maybe if I didn't use the dryer they wouldn't lose elasticity.

Children: Holly's Tip for Teaching Sign Language--or Anything!

Be silly! Kids love it and will want to play along. Teach EAT by having a puppet EAT objects, like a dinosaur eating toy cars! Show the sign before the dinosaur eats the car. After a couple silly, giggle inducing snacks, start signing EAT on the puppets mouth. Then switch to signing EAT on the child. Next wait for the child to sign before having the puppet eat the car. But don't forget, be very silly the whole time! Roar like a dinosaur, make crunching noises, and burp if necessary. You're teaching sign language, not manners! And if you absolutely must, you can always include the sign EXCUSE ME.

Think this is humbling? Maybe, if other adults are watching. But it is super effective--the child will learn the sign, and you will have a great memory.

Children: Favorite Book to Teach Signing to Babies and Toddlers

Signing Smart with Infants and Toddlers by Drs. Michelle Anthony and Reyna Lindert

My favorite "how to" book for signing with babies and toddlers is Signing Smart. If this book had been available when I started signing, I believe my daughter would have learned signs more quickly and we would have had a shorter "frustration period" where we were waiting for her first sign. The book is written by Ph.D.'s who are also ASL interpreters. They both taught their children to sign and developed the techniques discussed in the book while raising their children. They also conducted research studies and tested strategies in their Signing Smart playgroups.

Some of their best tips include:

  1. If you don't know a sign for an object us a category sign. For example, use the sign BIRD for ducks, geese, penguins, and robins. Or sign FOOD for cereal, applesauce, pizza, etc.

  2. Sign directly on the object. Sign DOLL on the doll's nose. Or BEAR on the stuffed animal's chest. Your child will see the sign and the object at the same time.

  3. Sign on your child. The physical sensation will help them learn where to place the sign, even if they can't see the sign at that moment. This works great while reading books. My daughter often signs on our faces now. During a signing playgroup, one of her friends was having difficulty learning to sign CAT. My daughter signed CAT on the child's face. The child immediately signed CAT!

  4. Signing Smart also provides a great list of starter signs with a balance of "See alot/Do Alot" signs (EAT, CHANGE, MORE) and "Highly Motivating Signs" (DOG, CAR). Make sure to teach your child signs he is interested in as well as signs that will benefit you.

You can get this book on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble. They also sell it at their site, http://www.signingsmart.com/. You can also search their site for Signing Smart play classes. I have never attended one of these. There aren't any in my area.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Children: The Miracle Blanket Company's Response to this Blog

From Marshall at Miracle Blanket

Thank you so much for the review! It's always heartwarming to find
somebody like yourself who has had so much success with the blanket to
inspire them to publicly proclaim it's effectiveness for us. It's
through word-of-mouth like this that our company has grown into a
success. When we try to say the same things to people they won't believe
it because they think we're just trying to sell them some snake oil. But
when people hear it from family and friends and other people who aren't
connected with our company, they decide to give us a chance. And then
they tell their family and friends and blog about it. :)

Regarding a bigger blanket, at around four months many babies gain just
enough motor control and strength to break out of the blanket. So we
give four months as a cutoff because we don't want to run the risk of
loose bedding in the crib when they break out. What we have discovered,
though, is that once they can do that it doesn't matter how big the
blanket is - they can break out of a bigger one just as easily. (That
came as a surprise to us.)

The answer, then, is to come up with a design that is different and yet
just as effective as the Miracle Blanket but that works for bigger
infants. That has been a huge challenge, and we've been working on it
for well over a year now. Our most recent design worked to some degree,
but not nearly well enough to live up to a name with the word "miracle"
in it. So we're back to the drawing board for a while. At the moment,
the project is on the "back burner".

In the meantime, I should mention that we hear time and time again that
the actual weaning process is never anywhere nearly as bad as the
anticipation of it. People think it will be horrible, but it always ends
up taking just 2 or 3 nights. The best way, by far, to wean is to just
go cold turkey. Once your baby seems to no longer be enjoying the
blanket so much, or at about four months old, just stop using it. For
two or three nights you'll get no sleep, but those two or three nights
will have already been more than made up for in the past weeks of sleep.
Just don't give in and use the blanket because then you'll just have to
start over. Then, usually quite suddenly, on the third or fourth night
(usually the third) your baby will just forget about the blanket
completely and start sleeping.

Recently I received a wonderful piece of feedback about our "Cold
Turkey" advice, and decided that I should include it whenever I answer
this particular question for somebody:
Dear Marshall,
I just wanted to take a minute and thank you for the helpful answer
you sent in response to my question about weaning my daughter off
the Amazing Miracle Blanket.
My husband and I took your advice and weaned her cold turkey. We
had two bad nights (the following two days weren't great either, due
to lack of sleep all three of us endured), but then it was as if someone
had flipped a switch in our daughter and on the third night she slept
without the blanket beautifully. You were so right that the
of giving up this amazing product when the time comes is much worse
than the actual event.
Thanks again! Your product and customer service are top-notch.
A grateful mom,

I hope that helps!

UPDATE: So many of you are mentioning my blog, they have given me my own discount! YEAH! Purchase the Miracle Blanket from www.spot4tots.com. When you checkout, use the discount code HOLLY. You'll get a 10% discount and free shipping.

Children: My Favorite Signing Resources for Babies 6 months and older

Baby Signing Time DVDs Vol. 1 & 2: These videos feature great production quality, catchy songs, cute cartoons, and kids that make you smile. My daughter began watching these DVDs a little after she turned one and rapidly began expanding her sign vocabulary. If I had known about them, she would have started watching them much sooner. Seeing chidren her age sign seemed to motivate her. Soon she was signing BABY to ask for the DVDs. The word choices in Baby Signing Time are great for beginning signers and their parents. The videos contain about 40 signs that are relevant and interesting to babies like DOG, BALL, CAT, CAR, and AIRPLANE. They also include signs that parents care about, like POTTY, CHANGE, PLEASE and THANK YOU.

I loved these videos as much as my daughter did. I incorporated the cute songs into our families routine. We sing the Diaper Song on our way to change diapers--it helps when she's being obstinate. We sing the Wash, Wash, Scrub, Scrub song while washing our hands and taking a bath. I let my daughter's daycare have the CDs of all the songs. They play them everyday. Pretty soon, my daughter had taught the other children the signs. They even created their own dance routine to the Diaper Dance! Listen to the songs online.

These DVDs teach ASL signs. The show's host, Rachel Coleman, is the mother of a deaf child. This series was born out of her desire to teach others to communicate with her daughter. Read her story and learn more about the benefits of signing with children. You can also read Rachel's blog and chat online with other parents who sign with their children.

My family is glad she shared her daughter's language with us!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Children: How to Choose Baby Signing Resources

The explosion of baby signing materials in recent years makes it difficult to decide which products to choose. Here are a few of the products available: Signing Time, Baby Signs, Wee Hands, Sign2Me, Signing Smart. and many, many more! I will add a more complete list in another post.

Make the decision easy on yourself and choose only American Sign Language (ASL) products. The signs will be fairly consistent from ASL product to ASL product. Even if there is an occassional variation in signs, just think of it like teach your child the words dog and puppy. We interchange them and the child doesn't get confused. However, if you use a program that is not completely ASL (like Baby Signs), you will run into conflicting signs repeatedly.

So make it easy on yourself--choose ASL products. My favorites are Signing Time and Signing Smart.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Children: Sign Language for Babies

I tried signing with my daughter, and using American Sign Language (ASL) has far exceeded my expectations. When I started signing with my daughter, I only planned to teach her the basics: EAT, FOOD, MORE, and PLEASE. I asked for a baby sign language dictionary for Christmas. And amazingly, I didn't care which one--clearly indicative that I had no grand plans to teach my daughter the hundreds of signs she now knows. If I had known, I would have spent hours and hours researching the best books and resources. Instead, I ended up doing the research after we had already begun signing.

ASL with my daughter has been a journey for my family. We started using ASL with the hopes of easing simple communication frustrations--but it opened up a window to my child's mind. when she looked ou the window, signs allowed me to know she was fascinated by birds, trees, and dogs. In this picture, she's telling me about a AIRPLANE.

ASL let me in on her quirky sense of humor. By 14 months she was telling me I was SILLY and making jokes by placing her bowl upside down over her cup and signing HAT with a grin.

Recently, ASL has surprised me again. It has opened up a world of learning for her. The physical nature of ASL has made it easier for her to grasp abstract concepts--like the alphabet. At 20-months, she has begun to identify letters through speech and fingerspelling. And she understands that letters can form words and words stand for objects. Pretty impressive for her age!

Children: The Miracle Blanket Helped Me Sleep

The Miracle Blanket is a cozy, secure blanket to swaddle infants in. I found it because I needed another option after Kalen outgrew the hospital swaddling blankets. Also, I didn't trust other people to swaddle her safely (like her babysitters). The Miracle Blanket was easy for everyone. It came with illustrated directions that were perfect for those who were using it the first time.

My daughter grew to love the Miracle Blanket so much she would fall asleep within minutes (sometimes seconds) of being swaddled. It also calmed her when she was overstimulated.

My daughter had a big startle reflex while she was sleeping. Her little arms and legs would jerk and kick and wake her up. This blanket provided just enough snugness to keep her asleep for hours on end. That's good for mommy and daddy!

I've also heard good things about Kiddopatomus Swaddle Me fleece swaddling blankets. The velcro tabs seem to hold well. However, I have heard that the babies can wiggle their hands out and wake themselves up.

UPDATE: So many of you are mentioning my blog, Spot4Tots has given me my own discount! YEAH! When you checkout, use the discount code HOLLY. You'll get a 10% discount and free shipping.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Technology: Create a Blog using Blogger

How to Start a Blog

I'm a media professional, so I'm a little embarrassed to admit--I didn't know how to set up a blog! I knew where to go to read and search blogs (http://www.technorati.com/, http://www.google.com/. http://www.bloglines.com/), but I didn't know how to set up my own. So after looking at a couple sites I thought might host blogs, I ended up doing a Google search. I guess I didn't use the right terms, because I didn't come up with much. After almost an hour of searching, I thought, "This can't be that hard! There are millions of bloggers out there! What is my problem?" So I went to http://www.ask.com/. That's how I found http://www.blogger.com/.

I immediately tried to set up an account. The screens were very user-friendly. There was no guessing what to do. I did receive error messages telling me to enable cookies--so, I gave up and went to bed. This morning, no error messages and the whole process was easy. The hardest thing was finding a URL that no one else has.

QUICK TIP: put your name in your blog address to make finding an unused URL easier.

Choosing a layout was easy. And so is typing this post. I've done all this without reading any help screens. It took me a minute to figure out the spellcheck feature. Finding the spellcheck icon was easy. It looks just like it does in Word. But no screens popup to let you know where in the process you are. I spellchecked twice before I realized that a message appeared in the toolbar telling me it was done spellchecking. Now that I know where to find it--it's easy.

So far, I would recommend http://www.blogger.com/ if you want to quickly start a blog. I'll keep you posted on my experiences as a novice blogger.