Monday, July 28, 2008

Busy, busy, busy...

We have been so busy getting ready for our trip that I've forgotten to blog! Our suitcases are ready and we're cleaning out the refridgerator and making final "to do" lists. Please pray for us this Wednesday (mainly that we make it through the flights with Mommy still sane) and we'll let you know when we arrive!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Boating and Beach Safety

For more, see part 1, Part 2, or Part 3... also note that any quote in bold italics is from the Amer.ican Re.d C.ross Ta.les program.

Boating is such a fun activity, but it has to be done safety. Make sure that the person you are riding with knows how to drive and understands boating rules. Look around the boat... are their keys on a small floating keychain, do they have plenty of lifevests, extra towels, flashlights, and first aid kits? If so, this person is experienced and knows what to do. If they seem to be hazardous, jumping other boats' wakes, driving while consuming alcohol, or going way to fast (you can tell because the boat tips and makes weird noises), you shouldn't ride with them anymore. We've had a few drinks out boating, which is perfectly legal, but no one who plans to drive the boat (or the car going home) should ever drink, and you should always check local laws, since some places outlaw alcohol entirely while boating. So, "Learn about boating, before you go floating!"

My favorite safety rule is "Don't just pack it, wear your jacket!" Obviously this means that when you're boating, everyone should be wearing life vests or personal floatation devices (PFDs). I know that not everyone does it, but try to make it priority, especially when boating at high speed, and ALWAYS when water skiing, tubing, and wake boarding. It's important that there are enough life vests for every person on board, and they must be coast guard approved. These ugly orange ones (type 2) are great for general boating. When water skiing, tubing, or wake boarding, a type 3 life jacket is better, since it is streamlined for quick speeds and covers your whole torso to prevent burns from hitting the water too hard. Here's a chart of all the types of PFDs or life vests. Children not only ALWAYS need a life vest, but a really specific type is important for them. Make sure it's Coast Guard Approved and has both a high collar around the neck (to turn the child on their back so they can breath until they're rescued) and a strap to go through the legs (to keep the life vest on in case of a violent crash). See an example here. This one is plain, but they actually usually come in lots of fun colors or have cartoons on them, which is a great incentive to get kids to wear them.

If you do have an accident while boating, the most important thing is to stay calm. If the water is warm, huddle together, in a cirlce, facing each other, arms around your neighbors shoulders. The water around the group will get warm and the collective body heat will mean that each person has to generate less. This is the key. If you are alone, huddle in a ball with your knees up to your chest, for the same reason of keeping body heat in as small an area as possible. Don't talk too much or use energy, save it to get the attention of boaters who pass you closely. If you aren't wearing your life vest, take off something thick, like jeans, and blow air into them and tie the ends to make a floatation device. Also float on your stomach and back alternately, and tread water until you are rescued.

When it comes to beaches, just make sure you keep an eye on your children and have them wear life vests if you can't supervise them every second. As children get older and swim more on their own, explain the tide and currents, an teach them to always look for landmarks on the beack to make sure they don't swim too far out or get carried away. You'll easily be able to feel the currents, so if you get stuck far out, swim with the current and aim toward the shore. Explain rip currents by standing in a wave and feeling the pull at your feet after the wave crashes. Really strong rip tides can carry you very far out. It's important to respect these and observe posted warnings and lifeguard instructions. If there are no lifeguards on duty, only attempt to swim once you see how conditions are and always go with a group in case you need help.

My last safety rule is a big one... "Reach or Throw, Don't Go". If anyone you know, especially an adult, is drowning, reach a long sturdy object out to them or throw a floatation devide. Make sure you keep a firm hold on the other end of the pole or rope, stand away from the edge of the water, and lean back. Obviously rescuing them as fast as possible is important, but don't go so fast that you don't think, and put yourself in danger.

The great thing about all the safety skills I mentioned above? You and your children can learn them all, plus even more, from the Amer.ican Re.d Cr.oss, and other certified swim lessons. I remember teaching a class about life vests (PFDs) and seeing a group of 8 to 10 year olds huddled in their life vests. They were laughing about having to touch each other and about being so close. I smiled, but all I was thinking about was how if they ever need this skill, I hope the silliness of that day and all the laughter will burn in their brains. If it's memorable, maybe they will remember this and use it.

If all of this is foreign to you, take a class yourself, or enroll your kids, and pay attention. You'll never regret it!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Part 3 - Practicing Swim Skills

Go check out Part 1 or Part 2...

If you don't have access to swim lessons, let me give you a few tips on what to do on your own.

One great to way to start with infants and toddlers is learning how to blow bubbles. You can have them try to blow a lightweight toy across the water to help them get started. It's important to give them verbal cues, like counting 1, 2, 3 when you go underwater or blow bubbles. Now when Love Bug jumps in, I can just count to three beforehand and she remembers to hold her breath and blow bubbles. Start slow, going under just a few times and build up slowly. It seems scary at first, but it will get easier. Love Bug now has her head fully wet within minutes of arriving at the pool and will swim underwater willingly.

Next skill to work on with your infants/toddlers is floating and swimming in a prone position, or face down. Start by holding your baby under the armpits (loosely to promote relaxation) and pull them forward, which will bring their legs up behind them. They can float in this position, or start kicking with your encouragement. Once they get more confident, move the hold down their arm so more of their body is floating. Moving ahead a few weeks, you can start throwing some favorite small bath toys in the water in front of you and ask them to reach for them. This will eventually translate when they swim alone and you tell them to "reach", they will naturally "crawl" with their arms. Now I hold Love Bug from the side, with just one hand under her belly. Once she's kicking and reaching well, I let go and let her swim a few feet before pulling her up and cheering for her.

Infants and Toddlers do not like to be on their backs in the water, so this is a skill to start early. The best way to start is to hold them securely under the armpits (not too tight that they sense tension) and let them lean back and rest their head on your shoulder as you walk backwards, which pulls their legs and feet to the top of the water. Once they get more confident, lower your body so your shoulder is under the water and the back of their head is just under the water. Make sure to keep their mouth and face clear and well above the water level, so they will continue to trust this position. Back floats and true swimming (backstroke) can wait until they start swim lessons around age 4 or 5, sometimes later.

Jumping in the pool seems like a silly skill to start so young, but it's only started because it can be such a joy later on. If they don't start early, they will fear it once they are physically able to do it. Hold your baby upright at the edge of the pool once they have enough leg stregnth to keep their legs straight. After counting to three (again, an important cue before any skill) lift them up in the air and smoothly down into the water, without putting their heads in. As they grow, they'll learn to be able to do it alone and you can eventually let them get more and more wet, of course praising them for going under, even if it was an accident. Jumping in at the wall is important, because it leads to diving and jumping off the diving board, both of which cause too much tension and anxiety if started too late. Just make sure to teach them to jump out so the never hit their heads on the wall.

Once they jump in... what do you do next? That's right... they climb out to jump in again. You can help them climb out until they have the stregnth to pull themselves out. Learning to climb out of the pool is one of the most important safety skills.

I recommend swimming at pools/beaches with lifeguards or at the very least, a few friends, so you can watch out for each other. Never swim alone. Even experienced swimmers don't swim alone... it's just not safe.

I don't recommend water wings, floaties, or swimsuits with floatation in them, not just because they are actually unsafe, but they also hinder a child learning to swim. They give children an unrealistic sense of floatation. They will learn to swim much sooner, but will have trouble taking off the water wings as they improve. This means that you will have to hold them all the time in the water. If you feel this is unrealistic, get a Coast Guard Approved life vest instead. If you only have them on as a safety precaution at a friends' barbecue or at the beach, again use a Coast Guard Approved life vest or personal floatation device (PFD) instead. Water wings can come off or deflate, and floatation swimsuits can roll children facedown.

I'll talk more about Boating (along with life vests) and Beach Safety tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Part 2 - Swim Lessons

See Part 1 here...

Swim programs with certified instructors are a good way to learn to swim. I always worked with the Ameri.can Re.d, but I've also seen the Y.MCA program and like what they do there as well. I said yesterday, a few weeks in swim lessons aren't enough. It's important to go to the pool often and practice what your child has learned.

At first, you'll be involved in swim lessons, when you take a Parent/Child Class. You'll be in the water with them the whole time, holding and supporting them. Later though, you have to let them start taking lessons on their own. It's hard for some parents to sit back and let the instructor teach without saying anything. It's important to do this, and really important to never talk to your child during the class. Walk away and let them work it out on their own. If they are too scared to get in and participate, make them sit on the wall with the class and don't get involved.

Trust me, this is where the positive peer pressure I mentioned comes in handy. The instructor and other children will have a much easier time getting them to try things than you will. Children see their instructors as authority, whereas they view Mommy as sympathy, someone who will let them stop anything that's uncomfortable. In my many years of teaching, I upset a few parents by asking at the beginning of the lessons that they sit at least 10 yards away and do not talk to their children. But every time, by the end of the classes, they were thrilled by how much their children learned in just 2 weeks.

At the same time, it's also important to stick close enough to see what's happening. You need to watch the skills they're learning so you can help them when you practice on your own time. It's great to ask for help with your practice sessions, so if you want to talk to their teacher outside of class time, feel free to ask them what you need to work on.

Swim Lessons are a great experience, but not everyone has access to them. If you have this problem, I'll talk more about techniques tomorrow.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Part 1 - Swimming Basics

When it comes to learning to swim, consistency is key. While swim lessons are really beneficial (I'll talk about this more next time), it's important that children just go to the pool and practice. I prefer a public pool for many reasons: it's safer and cheaper than having your own, and a great way to encourage your children to try more in the water. Some call it a "positive peer pressure" and no matter how you feel about that, it really does work. If they see other children swim away from their parents or jump off the diving board, they will be more encouraged to try it themselves.

The other really important thing is to start as early as possible. Children can start learning at 6 months of age and most Infant/Parent Classes begin at the same time. This is a great age to start and is perfectly safe. They can even safely go under water, but there have to be limits, and you can check with your actual instructor if you take a class.

The last thing to remember is to stay relaxed. If you are afraid of the water and you let your child feel it, it will certainly increase their fear. Just as in other situations, children take cues from you, so it's important not to let negative feelings show. This means acting excited and smiling when you discuss going to the pool. Get in the water up to your chest (and the babies chest) relatively quickly and don't act like it's too cold. As you move around and try different skills, stay positive and have fun. If your baby/child goes under the water, even by accident, clap for them. You may be patting their back while they're coughing, but keep smiling and cheering. Don't let an accidental slip under become a negative- turn it into a positive with lots of praise and cheering.

I'll talk about Swim Lessons tomorrow in Part 2 and more about Practicing Skills in Part 3 on Wednesday.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blog Award

I got my first award and I'm so excited! Nicol gave it to me, which is such an honor, because her blog is one of my favorites to read! She has such an eye for decorating and organization, which are two of my favorite things. If I'm ever out her way, we'll have to have lunch! (I'm not expecting her to come to Italy any time soon...)

Once an award is received, the rules are as follows:

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Nominate at least seven other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message for your nominee on their blogs.

I thought about this all week and I think I have it narrowed down to seven. So here are the winners:

Tootie from Tootie's Place is hilarious. From the "Scorpion Saga" to her almost being dog food, I stop by her blog whenever I need a laugh. She is finishing her Master's and training for a Marathon... so I like to live vicariously through those things too!

Carrie from with all that I've been given, is one of my favorite bloggers. I love reading about her personal retreats and all the great things she reads. And she and I have the same birthday, in the same year, which is just so much fun!

Cheri from Keeping Up With His Plans always inspires me with her faith. She lived in Italy, so she can sympathize with how much life can drive you crazy here!

Susan from The Brandenburg Diaries is another Mom who knows what it's like to raise her child in a foreign country, speaking two languages. I love hearing about her experiences in Germany.

CanCan at My Greening: Going Green also lives the overseas experience and inspires me to work even harder at being environmental. She has some great giveaways, with many green products and baby items, so stop by her place.

Katydid at Katydid and Kid shares great tips on crafts, green products, and many other cool things. I just started reading her blog and I think I'll be stopping back more and more.

Bren J. at stranger in a stranger land is another blog I've just started reading. She has great recipes and a lot of interesting posts. This is sure to become one of my favorites.

Many of these people are on vacation, so I'm not sure if I'll hear from many of them soon, but I still wanted to give out the award. Congratulations to everyone!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Water Safety

I was planning to do a post on bilingual children to share our experiences and offer tips on what has worked for us. Now, even though those posts are half written, I'm thinking more about water safety. I've seen a lot of posts about pools, boating, and other fun around the water and I thought I'd share some basic safety tips that many websites and other resources won't tell you. Love Bug and I are at the pool four to five times a week and I see so many parents struggling to teach their children to swim. I will admit that my certification is lapsed, but I was a lifeguard and swim instructor for 8 years before we moved overseas. I have been checking out current materials since I want to renew next year.

So, what are you questions? What do you want to know about teaching your children to swim or techniques to help them learn a certain skill in the water? Any questions about pools, lakes, beaches, or waterparks? Any questions about boating or water sports? I hope I can offer some advice and help make your time in or around the water more safe!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I wanted to share some exciting news with you all. I am going home to have the baby! All has finally been confirmed and my airline tickets are ready!

There's nothing wrong and no vital reason for this, just my comfort. I really like my doctor here, but culturally, the hospital is very different:
- With c-sections (which would be more likely, since I've had one already), Moms cannot breastfeed in recovery or see the baby until a few hours later
- Siblings can only come visit during very restricted hours
- They do not perform circumcision and we'd have to check into the children's hospital for another night to have it done (this is typical in Europe, since they don't really circumcise boys at all)

Obviously none of these things are issues at the hospital near my Mom's house. I also will have my Mom around more, since she could only take off two weeks to visit us, but actually only works part time. B will also take off 4 weeks, arriving just before the doctor's best guess of the birth date. He will come back around Thanksgiving for a quick trip to visit his family and then to help us come back to Rome. Because, really, did anyone think I could handle a two year old and a two month old, plus luggage, by myself on a trans-atlantic flight?

The best part? My husband's work actually prefers me to have my baby back in the US. So they're paying for our flights, rental car, and meals. Our insurance covers the medical care. All we have to do is find lodging, which as you can imagine, my Mom is thrilled to provide. We have a pediatrician and doctor we already use just down the street. The doctor is in a family practice and doesn't deliver babies, but she did refer me to her OB, who delivered all her children and also happens to be her best friend. I've already sent the OB my lab results, surgical report from my last birth, and talked on the phone with her assisting midwife many times, so I think we're ready!

I know it would be great to have a baby in Italy... trust me, I mourned over this for a long time. But I did it in France and while it was great, I really missed having the support of lots of family and friends around. Love Bug had only met my Mom, my Brother, B's parents, and a few others before our first trip home when she was 6 months old. I look forward to Dragonfly meeting all his family and many good friends before we return to Rome.

We're leaving in three weeks and I have a lot of prep to do before we go. A few boxes to mail (winter clothes and a few baby items), suitcases to pack, and I need to prepare the house for 4 months without me to keep everything under control! I'll keep updating you as we get close to our departure.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My little Dragonfly...

I was asked by one of my family members (one of the many who reads my blog, but never comments) what my concerns are when it comes to having the new baby. She is referring to the last post... it's a very small part if you didn't notice.

My big concerns are just that everything goes well. I really would like to try a VBAC (Love Bug was a c-section due to large size), but I'm still not meeting all the criteria to try it, since he's still in breech position. Often second babies have ample room, with everything being stretched already, to move around a lot. I was told that he'll probably be head down by 34 or 36 weeks, and I hope they're right. He's smaller than Love Bug, so hopefully that will help.

I was worried about Dragonfly's development, since they found a large measurement on my last ultrasound, but that was resolved just today! We went for another ultrasound and they found that the measurement was normal for this age range and is of no concern anymore, so that is reassuring! Yeah!

My next concern may seem a little silly, but I'm worried that I won't have enough love for both kids. Love Bug is the absolute center of my world and I can't imagine having time for anyone else. My Mom and many friends with 2 or more kids, assure me that they all felt this way too. And they also assure me that they had no problem finding time and love for 2 kids or more! Still, two kids under 2 seems so overwhelming!

Fortunately a lot of worries with my first pregnancy aren't a problem now. I worried about breastfeeding last time, but since I did it exclusively for 7 months and then continued through 16 months, I'd say I'll be okay. I also worried about having a c-section, but now that I've had one, I can say it was no big deal. I'd rather avoid it to help me heal faster (again, 2 kids under two... I don't have time to heal), but overall, it was a good experience and I recovered quickly the first time. My other worry was having time with my husband, but we've made that a priority and we always find time for each other. I think our relationship is stronger now in many ways!

I already love Dragonfly so much and I just hope I can be as good a Mom to him as I am to Love Bug. I can't wait to meet him... 13 weeks and counting!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Another Book Post

I just finished reading Eat, Pr.ay, Love by Elizabeth Gil.bert. While I enjoyed reading about her experiences in Italy, India, and Indonesia, I couldn't really identify with her. She is searching for herself and for meaning in her life, while I personally feel like I already know who I am.

Don't get me wrong- my life isn't perfect. I go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink or wet laundry in the wash. I sometimes watch a favorite movie while Love Bug plays alone, just because I need a break. I worry too much and let things get to me more than I should. My life isn't figured out yet, either- I don't know what I'll do when I'm ready to go back to work, and I don't know for sure if I'll teach again. I know I want to do something different when I get my Master's, but I don't know what field I'll choose.

Despite all this, I feel figured out, and I feel really good about my place in the world. I love my husband more each day and know I made the right choice when I married him. We still know how to make each other laugh. I dreamed about my daughter all through my pregnancy, and she is even more wonderful than any of my dreams. We play, laugh, go to the pool and park, and she learns more each day. I'm so thrilled that I'm about to have a baby boy. While I have my concerns, I know they're all normal. We'll both make it okay and he'll blend into our family just fine. My life is not at all what I planned, especially living overseas, but it's better than I ever hoped for.

I guess my point is that I understand the author's questioning of the choices in her life, but I'm so glad that I feel solid about my own. Why is it that my life feels so solid, while she feels that hers is so lost? Was I just lucky to find the right man, or did I choose the right person to marry? Is there something out there that I'm missing, or I'm I just lucky that motherhood is totally fulfilling for me? Do some people look at wrong choices as regrets, while I just see them as learning experiences? I have nothing to search for, because I've already found everything I need. I have no regrets, because I know I'm not done living my life.

What do you all think? Have any of your read this book or "searching for self" books like it?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Water Flying Out of the Tub

I hope our fellow Americans had a wonderful 4th of July! We did and I'll tell you more about it later. Fun fact: Did you know that our Independance Day was originally intended to be celebrated on July 2nd, which was the day the Declaration of Independance was completed?

This is a little illustration I drew of our bath tub. This is a view from above, as if looking down from the ceiling.

Here'e what happens whenever I take a shower. Why would they install the shower head across the tub, rather than in the length of the bath tub?

This is what I wish our shower did, but I will probably not get my wish!

Does anyone else have something in their house installed oddly?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Our vacation...

We went to Puglia on vacation, which is the heel of the "boot". Here are some of our favorite pictures from our trip:

The first night we arrived in this little village, the children of the town were putting on a show, with costumes, lights, and singing. So cute!

Our first meal had this amazing appetizer platter. Salmon, fruit/fish salad, shrimp, and octopus (the purple in the corner). I confess that I didn't like the octopus!

Being in Italy, a very Catholic country, there were religious monuments everywhere. I love the marine theme of this one.

Love Bug and Daddy cuddling on the beach...

We found this beautiful cove just up the road from our rental house. We reserved chairs and umbrellas for the week and just relaxed!

Walking back to the car after a long day at the beach. You can hardly tell that I'm pregnant. (he he)

We found this little village called Alberobello and did a little sight-seeing. These are all ancient houses made of white-washed clay with cone-shaped stone roofs.

The beautiful city of Matera later that day, where the houses are carved out of the side of a ravine.

Love Bug waiting for the shuttle up to the Castel del Monte. She loves this hat!

We finally got Love Bug a little raft after she tried to take them from other kids every single day on the beach!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Works-for-me-Wednesday: Peanut Butter and Chocolate Surprise Cookies

Surprise Cookies

1 cup Kar.o Light Corn Syrup
1 cup Sugar
2 cups Peanut Butter
6-8 cups Special K
1 bag Her.shey's Kisses or's chocolate stars (open & unwrap ahead of time)

Combine light corn syrup and sugar in a large pot over high heat. Wait until you see it start bubbling and turn burner off. Add peanut butter quickly, and stir well. Add Special K until the cereal is all well covered and sticks together. Take one piece of chocolate and make a ball of peanut butter mixture around the chocolate in about 1 & 1/2 inch balls. Lay on wax paper until cool and hardened. Makes about 4 dozen. Since Special K is the main ingredient, these cookies are actually really healthy... hehe! ;-)

* * * * * *

Note: These cookies have evolved in our family over generations. My grandmother found the recipe (many of you might already know it) for peanut butter bars with melted chocolate on top. She later decided she liked them as dropped cookies better. My Mom used's chocolate stars or Her.shey's Kisses for the chocolate bit on top, to give the cookies a nicer look. I've now put the chocolate inside, hence the surprise part of the name. We even had a period where they were called "Lifeguard Cookies" because I used to make them for the lifeguards when I was a pool manager! Does anyone know what the original recipe was called?

Stop by Work-for-me-Wednesday hosted by Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer for more 5 ingredients or less recipes!