Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gavin's Playlist

My sweetie loves him some music. He listens intently, and he always has. I can remember as early as four months watching him in the "music trance" as we still call it (at 21 months). For Gavin, music can be a source of comfort, calm, fun, silliness and motivation.

For a long time, we subsisted on Toddler Pandora (with the exception of the Beatles Lullaby CD that he falls asleep to), but let's face it. Pandora can be glitchy or slow and requires wi-fi, which means in the middle of nowhere, in a basement or on a plane, you are out of luck. As much as I love free, I finally purchased some of our favorite songs and want to share Gavin's very own playlist with you, along with--in true blogger fashion--my opinions about why it's fabulous.

In no particular order...Gavin's Playlist

Johnny Bregar's entire Stomp Yer Feet! album which includes great blues-y versions of "If You're Happy...", "Bingo", "Alphabet Song", and lots more.

Elizabeth Mitchell's versions of "Freight Train", "Little Bird, Little Bird", "Peace Like a River", "Shoo-Fly", "This Little Light of Mine", "You Are My Sunshine", and Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds." I especially love "Little Sack of Sugar" and "One Day, Two Days..." because the lyrics remind me of an enamored, sleep-deprived parent just overflowing with cuddles and smiles due to pure baby cuteness -- kind of like how the love tags started with Gavin (see blog intro). Her voice is pure but not too sweet. Plus, she often has cute babies singing or talking in the background which Gavin loves. "Car, Car" will be my next download from her.

Sandra McCracken (wife of Derek Webb [now solo artist formerly of Caedmon's Call] and folk rock singer in her own right) put together the Rain for Roots project with several of her friends and released Big Stories for Little Ones. Spiritually-meaningful lyrics put to real music. I sometimes listen to it when Gavin's not around--especially track 2.

"Down By the Bay" from the Campfire Sing-Along album by Orange Sherbet and Hot Buttered Rum. A children's song with scat singing. Worth it.

Someone named Ukulele Jim does my very favorite version of "The Wheels on the Bus" (the things I have opinions about now as a mom are kind of ridiculous and rather exhausting, and yet...) It's another one with cute kids singing along, so it's one of Gavin's favorites.

Bob Marley's "One Love/People Get Ready"

The Beatles' "Love Me Do" and "Hello, Goodbye"

Switchfoot's "More Than Fine" -- I just had to. (Love them)

Caedmon's Call's "The Only One" (People get smarter when they listen to Caedmon's Call)

Raffi's "Down on Grandpa's Farm" (Gavin's current favorite), "Bananaphone" (pure silliness), "He's Got the Whole World", "Octopus's Garden", and "This Little Light of Mine."

"You've Got a Friend in Me" by Randy Newman (from Toy Story). Though I love Disney songs, Gavin is not quite into the drama and orchaestral fullness of them. However, he does love this one.

"All I Want Is You" by Barry Louis Polisar (from the Juno soundtrack) -- I may never have picked it if not for Toddler Pandora, but it became a favorite of Gavin's, and we like dancing to it.

If I decide to spend more money, I'll definitely be adding a Jack Johnson and a Frances England or two. 

Now it's your turn. What song(s) would you add? What's your child's current favorite?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Toddler Language Explosion

Blogging is interesting. My sister-in-law Angie has written a couple thought-provoking posts this summer about her struggle to know how much good and bad to put on her blog and when and how. (Check her out here.) My "friend" Jen Hatmaker (friend is only in quotes because we haven't met, but I'm pretty sure that I love her enough to make the friendship work even with that minor technicality in play) wrote several stirring, serious, passionate posts in a row only to -- with astounding humor and effectiveness -- relate five normal mundane things that irk her. (Check her out here.)

Here is part of my favorite paragraph from her recent post, which kind of describes my dilemma in writing this and (sometimes) other posts about Gavin.

From Jen a few days ago: The downside of being a pretentious ingredient snob is that ... You end up saying pompous things like, “Grocery store tomatoes are not 1/100th the quality of my Cherokee Purples in the backyard.” This actually makes people hate you, like when you complain about shredding cheese and someone says just buy the preshredded bag and you call it waxy and unacceptable and they are like I kind of wish you were dead."

When I share victories about Gavin like how he is talking up a storm, I wonder if people are like stop bragging already. Then there are times when I contemplate sharing struggles and questions like...

when will he stop waking up at 5am already and
can the child never sit in circle time in our mommy-and-me class and
does this mean that he will always be a loner and not function in society? (I was pretty sure that he would start kindergarten being able only to bang toys together and never use them as intended until he proved otherwise. But I obsess, I mean, digress! ...Ummmm...)

I find it difficult to blog about struggles that are not yet resolved. That's what anonymous message boards are for, right? Somewhere between my anxiety about looking clueless (so sad she never properly taught that child to sleep) and my anxiety about looking clueless (doesn't she know babies that age aren't supposed to do that yet), it's just hard to get it down on the page. BUT I am contemplating thinking about planning to try to be more open about struggles in my blog. (Can you tell I don't feel particularly compelled at the moment?)

So that's for later. This is for now. Gavin is talking up a storm! Please don't 'kind of wish I was dead.'

Gavin has been saying words for quite a while. At about 18 months, there wasn't anything he wouldn't try to say. Then at 19.5 months, he started saying two-word phrases like "big up" (he still loves to step up and down more than just about anything else) and later that week moved on to two-word (what the books call) sentences like "bye dad-dee" and "eat pear." We love it, and he is quite proud of himself!

Along with his new ability to put words together has also come a new level of jibberish that will soon become intelligible conversation. New intonations, new sounds and a new expectation for us to understand more than we do. You see, his pronunciation is often far from accurate. I have often considered helping those closest to us by charting his "N" words like lunch, down and dinner and his "M" words like balloon and violin get the idea. I remember excitedly texting Josh during his important study session when Gavin went from saying pink (for months pronounced "hum") to pink (pronounced "humnk") to pink ("mink") to pink ("pink") all in a morning. (Aside: even now I'm wondering if you are like doesn't she know that kind of pronunciation is a sign of a learning disability or conversely if you are like duh, all babies do that. Reference crazy-person rant above about blogging struggles.) 

Anyway, because he expects us to understand more these days and because--for new words or words with no context--we often don't, his (adorable) little toddler brain has a few go-to ways of dealing with it:

1) Just keep saying it. I can picture his patient, earnest little face now as he thinks to himself C'mon mom, you can do it. Reach back into that rusty brain. Remember, we were talking about this yesterday. Remember. Many times, it will click for me, and I'll know I'm right when he repeats my correct answer with confident approval. Sometimes, he'll even add a yeah which he then tends to follow by yes and uh-huh.
2) When possible, point. He'll usually try a couple times without pointing even if the object is right next to him. I love it when the object is not next to him, and he takes those cute pudgy legs over to it and then gently repeatedly points with one finger.
3) Take a better suggestion. If I am guessing, and say something that sounds pretty good to him, he'll sometimes (though much less often than you might think) change his mind. Crackers? Yes, okay mom. Since you're offering.
4) Give up. Sometimes, he'll just decide it's not worth it. I'll guess a few times as he stares intently at me, then he'll just calmly look down and go back to what he was doing like Yeah,'s really not worth it after all.
5) Whine or cry. Thankfully, this doesn't happen often, but he is a toddler after all, and more so every day. 

To end this already-too-long post, here are my favorite things he's saying right now. At this point, I am probably the only one still reading, so why not indulge myself?

scissors -- seh-sehs with equal emphasis on both syllables
olive oil -- he'll say it five different ways in one minute which is part of the cuteness, but it's one of the few times he makes an actual "L" sound instead of a "Y" sound. Usually it comes out ol-oh.
house -- it's spot on but almost a nasal sound
high five dad -- I miss this one about half the time until he patiently helps me catch on, so I don't really know how to describe it.
hug -- an oldie, but a goodie -- he says it like a cross between hug and huck, which is adorable, but it's that sweet face with eyebrows slightly raised and those arms reaching out that make me think I don't care how you say it, baby. Yes, I'll take one of those.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 does something...

The post below is complete, and now I'm sitting here trying to think of a creative, interesting way to open it. The more I sit here, the more I realize it is pointless to avoid the fact that this is a very technical post -- meant to be one of those that comes alongside another mom to help. Trying to open in a snazzy way is making me cranky (grin). So...I will just say that if you are looking for cute anecdotes about Gavin, stay tuned. In the meantime, please pass this on to a mom that may find it helpful.

Some of you may remember that we took Gavin off of all dairy in an attempt to reduce or eliminate his breathing issues. Well, it did seem to help with that and also with his sleeping! He went from getting up one or two brief times in the middle of the night (mostly for a re-plug of the pacifier) and also waking early (anywhere from a yucky time like 5 to an acceptable time like 6:30) to not waking at all in the middle of the night and most of the time having a normal wake time (between 6 and 7:30).

When we relayed our experience to his pediatrician, he seemed intrigued but not at all surprised. He said milk can negatively affect digestion, breathing and even the nervous system--any one of which could have been disrupting his sleep. We are thankful that our pediatrician intentionally integrates nutrition into his practice.

When jumping into this non-dairy adventure, I read everything I could about how to help him get enough nutrition without whole milk and found everything from "serve your baby a variety of healthy foods, and he/she will be fine" to recommended quantities of fat, protein, calcium and vitamin D and the best ways to get them. Of course, I jumped full in to the latter...bring on the calculations, checklists and overall obsessing!

Our family is far from perfect in this area, and as with everything, you should definitely check with an expert (disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer), but with all the hard work I've done and great resources I've found, I feel compelled to share.

First, I will share an Excel sheet I created to help me determine how much calcium, fat, and protein Gavin needs at each age. The spreadsheet also contains a list of the major foods we use to get him there with the amounts of each nutrient listed above according to Super Baby Food or the product package itself (if they differed, I used the product package). Second, I will share what a typical day of nutrition might look like for Gavin. I looked everywhere for an example like this and came up with nothing. Like I said, I come at this with no credentials, but I offer this as a starting place for your own researching and planning. Third, I will list my primary sources and how they helped.

Non-Dairy Nutrition Calculator for Children 1 to 3 Years Old
This calculator contains formulas based on nutritional recommendations for children 1 to 3 years old found in the book Super Baby Food. The book itself contains recommendations for children 0-12 months as well. Since this post is particularly for parents who want an alternative to whole milk for their children and since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children not drink whole milk before the age of 1 year, I have put only the calculations for that age group to keep things simple.

To download the chart for your own use, just click the link below. You will be taken to an online version of the chart in Google Docs. You cannot edit the chart online, but you can download it from Google Docs onto your computer to complete for your own child. Click here to go to Google Docs to download. (Go to the File Menu in the top left corner and click "download" as Excel or as Open Document.)

A typical day of nutrition for Gavin
At the time of this writing, Gavin is 20 months. Keep in mind that he loves and has always loved his food. So, yes, he does eat all of this happily. If your child resists new foods, remember that most kids must sample something 7-10 times before they develop a taste for it. The important thing is to keep offering it. They don't have to eat an entire serving -- just taste it. When we were introducing tahini to Gavin, we planned to mix it into his cereal. We started with a 1 teaspoon mixed in and he did grimace the first few times. Once he was used to that small amount, we slowly worked up to a tablespoon. He gobbles it down now.

With each meal or snack, we give Gavin almond milk fortified with calcium and other vitamins. It has twice as much calcium as cow's milk but it's not the primary source of his fat or protein, so I'm not insane about him getting a certain number of ounces, but he usually has about 12-15 ounces in a day.

Breakfast: Some kind of berries and another kind of fruit usually blueberries and mango or strawberries and peaches. Also, his beloved Cheerios(R).
Morning snack: 1/2 piece whole wheat bread (you'll need to check the ingredients if you are eliminating all dairy - some contain whey) with almond butter (about 1T), a small amount of blackstrap molasses and usually either crushed pineapple, sliced banana or applesauce to help the almond butter go down. Also, some kind of fruit cut into bite-sized pieces or applesauce if we're out and about.
Lunch: 1 egg (hardboiled or scrambled), Green veggie like kale or broccoli (about 2T), beans (about 2T), 1 small orange or 1/2 of a large one.
Afternoon snack: Earth's Best oatmeal or Dr. Sears multi-grain cereal (3T) with 1T tahini (raw) and 
1-1/2 T wheat germ mixed with coconut milk (about 3 oz or to the right consistency). We used to also give an orange veggie like carrots or sweet potatoes, but recently I increased the cereal and saved the orange veggie for dinner. Mostly to make it easier for me -- especially when we're out.
Dinner: Meat or fish (about 2 ounces), orange veggie like carrots or sweet potatoes or winter squash (about 2T), sometimes tomato (about 1T), avocado (1/6 of a small one), 1/2 piece of bread. Recently, I've been concerned about making sure he's getting enough healthy fats, so I let him dip his bread in olive oil with Italian herbs sprinkled in. He loves it, and it is super cute to watch him dip and listen to him try to say olive oil.

This is just an example. We certainly deviate in one way or another most days, and like I said, we are far from perfect, so I would love to hear your suggestions. Just leave a comment below.

Sources that were helpful to me
This post would not exist without the book Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. It covers nutrition for infants through toddlers, and even though I didn't start reading it until Gavin graduated from purees to finger foods, I cannot overstate its usefulness to me. My favorite features are:
  • A breakdown of how much of the major nutrients a child needs at each age.
  • A list of almost every fruit and vegetable you can think of and its primary nutrients and preparation tips.
  • A list of vitamins and minerals and the foods that are highest in them.
  • A list of super baby enhancers (things you can easily add to cereal or sandwiches to boost nutrition).
  • Nutrient table with baby-sized portions.
  • An example of what a-day-in-the-life of her baby's diet looked like (I looked everywhere for this online).
The Super Baby Food Diet is lacto-ovo-vegetarian (milk, eggs, veggies, grains). Gavin does eat a little meat, but no dairy, so I was not able to carbon-copy this diet for him, but the resources were a huge help in me piecing together our own thing. (The book does have a chapter on meat for those choosing that route and does not hate on meat-eaters.)

Another resource that was helpful to me was an article called, "Is Milk Really Good for Our Children?" With studies quoted from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, I found the information helpful. Just keep in mind, the list of calcium sources may or may not be listed in baby-sized portions.

For questions about foods not on my chart or in your other sources, you can use Self's Nutrition Data. Just make sure you are adjusting for baby-sized portions.

Final thoughts: If you have questions about this, I recommend you ask your pediatrician. If you have a question about the chart or our approach with Gavin, please ask it in the comment section below, and I will address it to the best of my ability.