Archives for September 2008

How to Raise Sign Language Babies

\The moms in my baby massage class this week wanted to know what I thought about baby sign language. What do I think? I think it is wonderful. But I also think if you’re a mom, you already know a lot more about this topic than you may think you know. Let me share a few of my thoughts and tips on “raising sign language babies.

\Looking back to when my girls were born, 8 and 5 years ago, I’m quite sure they were both born “talking.” Beyond all the cooing and crying, each came into the world using their own version of baby sign. Pulling on ears or rubbing eyes? Baby sign for “tired.” Great eye contact and a winning smile? Baby sign for “let’s play!” Looking away and getting real fidgety? Baby sign for “I don’t want to play…too much stimulation for me now…can you turn off the TV and lights, wrap me up real tight in my favorite blankie and hold me please?…thank you!.” Each had their own variation. Once I figured them out, I could “hear” what they were saying just by tuning into their body language. Mind you, I wasn’t 100% accurate as their language interpreter…but boy was it better than nothing!

I’m thinking “Body Language 101” and “Crying to Get Your Parents to Take Action” must be prerequisite courses for being born. So when it comes to the question of whether or not to use Baby Sign Language with your 7+ month old, that’s a no brainer. You’ve already been learning and using it in some form or another since the day they were born. You know this stuff! So now that your baby is getting a little bit older, why not take it up a notch?

Why Learn Baby Sign Language

Scientific studies suggest that “typical” children who learn to sign have higher IQ scores, are better adjusted and read at an earlier age. But if you want my opinion, the REAL reasons to learn Baby Sign are to:

  • foster a vital sense of connection that your baby needs to feel
  • deepen the bond that exists between you and your child
  • strengthen your child’s trust in you and in the world around them
  • avoid the frustration of miscommunication

Learning better communication skills, whether at 7 months of age or 7 years of marriage, is always a good thing. Now assuming you want to continue using sign language with your child, here are a few tips.

How to Start Signing with Your Baby

There are hundreds of hand signs you can teach your baby, words for everything from mealtime and bedtime to bathtime and playtime. For starters though, take it slow. Think of just a couple words you think would be helpful and start there. “Eat,” “drink,” “more”, and “all done” (much better than your child throwing food off their high chair to tell you the same thing!) are my personal favorites and good ones to start with.

Next, be sure to ALWAYS use the word and the sign together and to repeat this combination several times when you know your baby is watching.

Finally, be flexible, be patient…and make signing fun! It will quickly become a part of your daily routine, helping you to both listen to and share with your child, a skill you will enjoy the fruits of for many years to come. I wouldn’t trade the many great, funny and humbling experiences I had signing with my girls (from age 7 months to almost 2 years of age) for anything.

There are great resources out there for learning to sign with your baby. A favorite is the DVD, Baby Signing Time! Another is the book, Sign with Your Baby.

Do you have a great, funny or humbling experience using baby sign language with your little one? Send me your stories!!!

Suzanne, aka Zen Mommy
In addition to mommying to two magical girls born in 2000 and 2003, Suzanne owns a holistic health center in St. Louis, Missouri where she practices as a physical therapist, Certified Infant Massage Instructor and health education teacher. Certified in a number of healing and life education approaches, Suzanne offers life coaching as Zen Mommy Coach.

How to Pick a Crib for Baby

Amisha, one of our Mommy readers who is due in the spring asked me how to pick the right crib for baby. The biggest challenge of this decision, as with many others regarding your changing family is that it is hard to predict what “system” will work for you. You can ask your friends but their lifestyle choices may not be quite in sync with yours. Do you go with one that converts from a crib to a toddler bed to a day bed? What about those ultra cool, designer round cribs? How do you even start to narrow down your choices?

May I make a suggestion? Let’s start with…

The advantage with buying new is that ALL new cribs must meet the government minimum safety requirements so even the most affordable new crib is going to fit a standard crib mattress snuggly and firmly, will have no missing/broken hardware or slats and no cutouts in the head- or foot-boards, slats will be no more than 2 3/8″ apart (the width of a soda can), and corner posts no higher than 1/16″.

If you are inheriting a crib from a friend or buying one used, make sure that it complies with these basic safely guidelines. Pass on any used cribs that have been repainted. You just can’t be assured that it is free of toxic chemicals. Saving a few bucks is just not worth it. There are plenty of great deals on new cribs that will allow you peace of mind… there’ll be lots of other things that’ll be keeping you up at night! :)

Even when you are buying new, make sure you are aware of any safety recalls on baby cribs. We bought our first crib and then borrowed the second, since my toddler was still in her crib when my second baby was born. The one I borrowed was relatively new and safety compliant.

Baby Crib Features
With safety considerations out of the way, now you’re going to have to select the features you think will be helpful or best for you and your family.
• Do you want wheels?
• Do you want drop sides or not?
• If one or both sides drop, how do you control it?(knee-push, foot bar, double trigger, fold down)?
• Do you want an adjustable mattress height? (available on all but the most inexpensive) And if so, how many levels? Ours had three.
• Do you want the crib to convert to a toddler bed/day bed?

A lot of people suggested that we choose a convertible crib since it is designed to grow with your child into practically adulthood! Although that appealed to my practical sensibility, I chose a traditional crib because… well, I fell in love with a sleigh (see how aesthetic wins over practicality???). Perhaps if we had gone with the convertible option, we would have transitioned our daughter into her crib-turned-toddler bed. Instead, she moved straight into a big girl bed and we’ve paid it forward… passing on our exquisite sleigh crib to a cousin. But if crib reviews are any indication, convertible cribs win lots of points from parents.

Here’s a starting point for you…

5 Great Cribs in 2008 (click to view cribs)
1. Simplicity Ellis
It’s no wonder that the Simplicity Ellis is one of the best-selling cribs around. It’s convertible design is still beautiful while providing 4 transitional stages for baby… saving you from making another purchase through toddlerhood and beyond. And it’s affordable!

2. Da Vinci Kalani
The Kalani Crib also converts from crib to toddler bed to daybed and it’s contemporary styling is a hit with today’s hip parents. One mommy says, “This crib is stunning. It has a very high-end look and feel. It’s hard to find baby furniture in this shade of espresso and it is abslolutely gorgeous, sturdy and easy to assemble.”

3. Sorelle Vicki
Yet another convertible, the Sorelle Vicki gets rave reviews for its sturdiness, which (if the reviews are any indication) seems to be a crucial factor for active toddlers. The Vicki is also easy to assemble.

4. Storkraft Regan Traditional
Both experienced and first-time parents love this crib. A mommy’s review: “My husband and I are very pleased with this crib! I was amazed at how quickly it arrived, how easy it was to assemble, and how sturdy it is. It is true to color and matches our woodwork perfectly. It is a great crib for a great price!”

5. Da Vinci Jenny Lind Baby Crib
A Jenny Lind crib offers classic styling, usually at a budget price, and this Jenny Lind crib from Da Vinci is no exception. The crib’s slats are turned and curvy rather than straight, adding visual interest. Four mattress levels, caster wheels and a “safety glide” drop side system add convenience for parents. A conversion kit is available separately to change the crib into a toddler bed. One mommy reports, “It is a simple, classic crib for a really great price. I ordered it online, it arrived quickly, and was easy to assemble. It is sturdy and easy to use — the value can’t be beat! It’s a great crib for baby.”

Tell us and others about YOUR pick!

How to Feel Like a “Free Woman”

… and still be raising kids!

No, I did not just escape from Alcatraz…but for some reason, people keeping telling me I’m a free woman. Free? Well, I don’t know about that, but I did just send my youngest off to her first day of Kindergarten. It’s this concept of freedom that I haven’t been able to get off my mind all week as I’ve been told repeatedly, from some of my best friends even, that I am now officially a “free woman”.

“You must have a lot of time on your hands!”…that’s another one I’m hearing a lot of lately. Freedom and time…time and freedom. I think this freedom everyone keeps telling me I have now is really all about what they perceive as me having “more” time than before. It’s like I’ve moved into a new time zone with perpetual day light savings time where I get an extra hour or two…but every day. Or at the very least, on Monday through Friday!

Ummm….time on my hands? I don’t know about you…but time isn’t something I don’t typically complain of having an over abundance of. Even with both kids now in school, my time is readily filled with people to see, places to go…things to do. But what if now that both my kids were in school I could hit this magic button and start to move through the world feeling like I had all the time in the world; a FREE woman? I think I’d hit that button. SO this got me to thinking, who do I know that really does live this way…magic button or not? And the answer made me laugh out loud. Just about every baby, 1, 2, 3, or even 4 year old I’ve ever met knows how to live this way (that is…before we train them to run around quickly like little busy ants).

You know what I’m talking about. Remember the last time you looked at the clock and realized you were supposed to be somewhere 5 minutes ago??? Remember how your pleas to get going fell upon deaf ears as your child continued to do what he or she was doing…fully engrossed in the present moment? They might have been building a lego creation, scribbling with crayons or just generally figuring out how the world works by opening and closing a low cabinet door in the kitchen, pulling all your Tupperware onto the floor. But your little zen-master could not be swayed. For all your begging and explaining…maybe even for all your empty threats of leaving without them…they could not be convinced that it was time to go. In fact, it was PAST time to go. Though it seemed perfectly clear to you that there was just NOT ENOUGH TIME, your child sat there playing contently, engaged in his or her world in the present moment without a care in the world. Why couldn’t they understand that you HAD TO GET GOING?!?

And then it dawned on me. My girls have had this freedom thing figured out right from the start. And maybe over the past 8 years of me being a parent..instead of me raising my girls, living, laughing, loving, going on fun and creative outings, singing, dancing, playing, having picnics in the park…maybe THEY have been raising me. Maybe they have been readying ME for this day when they were both old enough for all day school. Maybe, just maybe my girls have been my teacher, my nurturer…my guide in this world. It seems so evident now. They have been modeling for me in all their sweet and sometimes infuriating little kid ways, the key to happiness and freedom. In all the ways they lived as I moved sometimes hurriedly through the world, they were patiently showing me how to be more like my true self. My children have been modeling this for me since their birth…how to be present and mindful.

I imagine my youngest, Morgan, watching me this past May when we I took her to see her new school. She was there to take a pre-K screening test and to meet Ms. Callanan who would be her Kindergarten teacher in the fall. I imagine her wondering, “Is my mommy is really ready? Can I trust her to stay in the present moment? What if she forgets to enjoy every breath of every day even if I’m not standing there right next to her to remind her?!? And who is going to slow her down long enough to stop and smell the roses??! What if my mommy forgets everything my sister Reilly and I have taught her over the past 8 years and she starts to run around like a crazy person with her head cut off, trying to get too many things done in all her free-time without me???

I admit that in the past and the pretty recent present…and most likely in the near future…I have suffered from severe attacks of MAJGDTMS Syndrome, also known as the Multitasking and Just Generally Doing Too Much Syndrome. But now my youngest is off to Kindergarten I am left on my own to remember the many lessons my daughters have been teaching me all these years. I want to make them proud. I feel myself testing the waters, taking baby steps, attempting to see the world and move through it with the mind of a child. Yesterday I walked to Yoga instead of driving.

Can you imagine, I have been driving to yoga class all of these years and the studio is just around the corner? I did this because it just seemed to be the practical thing to do. Driving saved time on the way there and then when class was over, I could get right back to my busy and fast paced life because my car was just outside waiting for when I left my yoga class.

Today I ate my lunch without talking on the phone, opening the mail, or typing on the computer. I just sat and ate, no radio and no TV. I sat and ate in a quiet room, enjoying each bite. I sat and breathed and felt connected to myself and the world around…opps…gotta cut this short. For real. I just noticed the time and was supposed to leave to pick up my kids from school 5 minutes ago.


Give me a few years…my youngest just started kindergarten.


Suzanne, aka Zen Mommy
In addition to mommying to two magical girls born in 2000 and 2003, Suzanne owns a holistic health center in St. Louis, Missouri where she practices as a physical therapist, Certified Infant Massage Instructor and health education teacher. Certified in a number of healing and life education approaches, Suzanne offers life coaching as Zen Mommy Coach.