Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Top 10 Reasons the Hello, World book is the Perfect, Personalized Baby Gift October 11, 2013

Written by Jennifer Dewing and illustrated by Holli Conger

Written by Jennifer Dewing and illustrated by Holli Conger

My neighbors recently welcomed home their first child, a beautiful baby girl. My husband and I didn’t falter; we bought the biggest box of newborn-sized diapers we could find. Babies need to be changed an average of 12 times per day–a practical gift makes sense.
We were stumped about choosing a more personal gift to offer. The transformation of becoming a parent is life-changing. The overwhelming love that blooms within the heart deserves to be honored, nurtured, and celebrated. But how?
Hello, World! delivers on the top 10 list of what to look for in a baby gift. Written by award-winning author Jennifer Dewing and illustrated with adorable animals by artist Holli Conger, Hello, World! comes personalized with the new baby’s name and photo (optional). If you provide the parents’ names, the city where the baby lives and the baby’s birth weight, the book will include that optional personalized information as well. Like all I See Me personalized books and gifts, this new title makes a special gift and lasting keepsake.

1.     Make it a Keepsake. Personalizing this book with baby’s thoughtfully selected name will be something that baby (and the new parents) will treasure for a lifetime.

2.     Educational. Babies learn and develop right before your eyes. This gift is educational and helps to fuel the new baby’s brain development.

3.     WOW Factor Hello, World! is sure to get a lot of “OOOHS” and “AAAAHS” when opened by the new parents.

4.     Growth Potential. This gift grows with the baby. A special book is a gift that baby will use for years and keep forever.

5.     Picture Perfect. Any gift that can be customized with a baby’s photo is sure to be a hit with new parents. And, baby will delight in seeing himself or herself on the gift. (My “big kids” STILL loving seeing photos of themselves as infants. Me too!)

6.     Drool Over It. We’re talking “baby gift” here. Hello, World! is colorful and something baby will literally “drool” over.

7.     Cuddle Factor. Both parent and baby will love snuggling up with this story.

8.     Built to Last. Let’s face it, babies have curious and exploring little hands and mouths! This book is a quality gift that is built to last.

9.     Easy-to-Order. Hello, World! can be delivered to your special delivery within a couple weeks of birth.

10.  Made in the USA. Feeling patriotic? Hello, World! is made right in the USA.


*I was not compensated for this recommendation. Hello, World! is a high-quality, charming keepsake.


Baby’s language development starts in the womb December 5, 2009

Surprisingly, the sound of a newborn’s cry varies from hospital to birthing center around the world. Two babies born at the same moment in two different countries will cry a melodic rendition of their parents’ mother tongue, according to  a new study published by Current Biology. The findings suggest that infants begin picking up elements of what will be their first language in the womb, and certainly long before their first babble or coo.

“The dramatic finding of this study is that not only are human neonates capable of producing different cry melodies, but they prefer to produce those melody patterns that are typical for the ambient language they have heard during their fetal life, within the last trimester of gestation,” said Kathleen Wermke of the University of Würzburg in Germany. “Contrary to orthodox interpretations, these data support the importance of human infants’ crying for seeding language development.”

In many ways, this news shouldn’t come as any surprise. Early studies have already shown us:

  • Human fetuses are able to memorize sounds from the external world by the last trimester of pregnancy, with a particular sensitivity to melody contour in both music and language. (Anyone who has played a particular song or music while pregnant is delighted when baby shows recognition and preference for it!)
  • Newborns prefer their mother’s voice over other voices and perceive the emotional content of messages conveyed via intonation contours in maternal speech (a.k.a. “motherese”).
  • Earlier studies of vocal imitation had shown that infants can match vowel sounds presented to them by adult speakers, but only from 12 weeks on. That skill depends on vocal control that just isn’t physically possible much earlier, the researchers explain.

Although prenatal exposure to native language was known to influence newborns’ perception, scientists had thought that the surrounding language affected sound production much later, the researchers said. It now appears that isn’t so.

Wermke’s team recorded and analyzed the cries of 60 healthy newborns, 30 born into French-speaking families and 30 born into German-speaking families, when they were three to five days old. That analysis revealed clear differences in the shape of the newborns’ cry melodies, based on their mother tongue.

Specifically, French newborns tend to cry with a rising melody contour, whereas German newborns seem to prefer a falling melody contour in their crying. Those patterns are consistent with characteristic differences between the two languages, Wermke said.

“Imitation of melody contour, in contrast, is merely predicated upon well-coordinated respiratory-laryngeal mechanisms and is not constrained by articulatory immaturity,” the researchers write. “Newborns are probably highly motivated to imitate their mother’s behavior in order to attract her and hence to foster bonding. Because melody contour may be the only aspect of their mother’s speech that newborns are able to imitate, this might explain why we found melody contour imitation at that early age.”

  1. Mampe et al. Newborns’ Cry Melody Is Shaped by Their Native Language. Current Biology, November 5, 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.09.064

Get 20% off organic Amenity Home baby gear! November 4, 2009

Soft, natural, eco-friendly fibers are a must-have for baby’s soft skin. Beautiful, timeless design often comes with a steeper pricetag, so a discount is certainly welcome.

Eco-friendly Amenity Home  offers lovely and for well-designed products for modern living. These beautiful products are whimsical but not at all babyish, and are sure to be cherished while “growing” with your child. For the first time ever, the company is offering 20% off site-wide (Muir Collection excluded).  Just use the discount code – “fall20” – at checkout.   

While Amenity is available in many cities, the best place to see the all the collections is online.  Among all of the modern organic products, the Amenity Nursery Collection offers an adorable, contemporary take on nature and woodland creatures, and would be perfect for both genders. So sweet! My sons are ages 2 and 4, but they would just love lounging on the animal floor pillows!

If you’re looking for a thoughtful and luxurious shower or baby gift, the organic baby basics are useful and versatile.  Softer than you can even imagine, the organic baby blankets would make a welcome keepsake item.


E-Cloth green cleaning is cost-effective and chemical-free September 17, 2009

Several months ago, I was asked to test the E-Cloth, a series of job-specific microfiber towels that require only water to clean every surface inside and outside the home, from delicate glassware to over-burdened outdoor grills.

While some consumers still purport that green products “cost too much,” or are “just a marketing gimmick,” with E-Cloths you don’t have to buy green products—in fact, you don’t need to buy anything at all. Besides, while some sustainable products might cost a little more at the checkout counter than conventional products, there are much bigger, and much longer-term savings that show up in the health of your family and the health of the planet.

What took me so long to give them a test-run? I was hugely skeptical. How could a mist of water and a set of hand towels get my house “clean enough”? I have two sons, a husband, and a pet–all conspiring against the cleanliness and freshness of my home. In my case, the motivating factor was guilt; I’m embarrassed to admit I still hadn’t broken my paper towel habit, and with an E-Cloth Starter Pack at my disposal, I had no excuse.

First, a quick overview on why paper towels no longer make sense for household cleaning:

  • Cleaning with microfiber eliminates the use of energy for the manufacture, transport and disposal of paper towels.
  • Paper towels are used once then thrown away. Used paper towels cannot be recycled so they create a large volume of landfill waste.
  • Manufacturing paper towels from virgin fibers (far and away the most produced) leads to deforestation and typically involves chlorine bleaching to make them whiter. Chlorine is a toxic chemical that releases carcinogenic dioxins and furans.
  • No run off and disposal of the chemicals used to manufacture paper towels.

I began with the kitchen pack, consisting of a General Purpose Cloth for thick grease and dirt and a Glass & Polishing Cloth for glass, light cleaning and final polishing. Amazingly, the fiber technology penetrates and removes dust, grime, oil, grease and even bacteria. The most two most surprising results were how easily stuck-on kitchen messes came off, and the consequential gleaming shine of my counter tops.

For years, I only used biodegradable, phosphate-free household cleaners , and I understood that spraying, waiting for the product to sink in, and scrubbing were the three steps of the cleaning process. With the E-Cloth, a light mist of water and an immediate sweep with the cloth lifted even the most offensive of kitchen messes without requiring the help of my own “elbow grease.” Cleaning was literally effortless, without the surface film typcially left behind by cleansers. My surfaces are now the cleanest and shiniest they have ever been. I am, in fact, shocked by how well these products work. Tile, countertops, stove tops, glass windows and bathroom surfaces are literally “squeaky” clean, with zero residue or bacteria, without effort. For family members with respiratory problems, the prospect of entirely chemical-free cleaning brings much-needed relief.

According to the National Research Council, no toxic information is available for more than 80% of the chemicals in everyday-use products. (Click here to view a video about our exposure to household chemicals on In the U.S. there are no legal requirements for listing ingredients on the labels of household cleaning products. Household chemicals don’t come under the jurisdiction of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) .The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only regulates pesticides, and the focus of Consumer Product Safety Commission is limited to acute poisoning hazards.

However, as mentioned in Clorox Green Works to Boost Company Image and Sales?, regular use of toxic cleansers chronically expose family members and pets to known, cancer-causing carcinogens. Studies have shown that we spend over 85% of our time indoors. The EPA reports that indoor air quality is often times much more polluted than outdoor air. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 23 million people–including 6.8 million children–have asthma. Young children crawl on the floor, then put their hands in their mouth transferring chemical residue. While the human body is accustomed to most common home bacteria, our bodies are not equipped to fight cancer-causing toxins. Since household cleaners were the third largest category of substances associated with calls to poison control centers, the Soap & Detergent Association (SDA) recommends protecting children from cleaning chemical exposure by only cleaning when they are out of the house.
 E-cloth’s only cleaning companion is distilled water, guaranteeing this product is:

  • Non toxic
  • Non allergenic
  • No skin irritants
  • No toxic residue
  • Unscented
  • Completely safe to use around children and pets
  • Reusable (E-Cloth promises 300 uses)
  • Cost-effective
  • More effective than any product this tester has used.

So what is to stop me from buying a case of microfiber cloths at Costco? Does using the E-cloth brand make any difference? “Microfiber” is a general term used to describe a wide variety of materials fabricated using ultra-fine fibers. There is a large disparity in quality from one microfiber to another. Understandably, inexpensive microfibers do not clean as well, and are not as durable as premium microfiber.

Small fibers are best suited for cleaning because they possess far more “cleaning edges” to pick up dirt. Clearly, the more fiber strands per square inch, the more capability the cloth has to cut through, collect and absorb grease, dirt and liquids.

E-cloth’s fabrication creates microscopic texturing with each fiber being about 1/100th the width of a human hair. A standard E-cloth has 500 million strands per cloth. While Costco, for instance, doesn’t offer that information, its site specifies that its brand, “Will soak up to 7 times its weight in liquids, and leaves surfaces 99% bacteria-free without expensive disinfectants.” Before purchasing microfiber cloths, be sure to do your research.

Using microfiber cloths saves money, time, and will eliminate paper towels’ carbon footprint and landfill waste, along with air and water pollution that chemicals create.

For more info: Check out the E-Cloth website and/or order products.

E-Cloth won the Good Housekeeping UK 2009 Green Living Award, is recommended by the British Allergy Foundation, and Greensburg’s GreenTown.

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At-home fetal monitoring no substitute for med eval August 26, 2009

This article is from my Parenting column on the L.A. edition of

The joys and worries of pregnancy–especially the first time!–can be numerous. One way moms-to-be often comfort themselves is with an at-home personal fetal monitor (Doppler device). The sound of baby’s heartbeat is certainly reassuring, but can the sounds of a normal heartbeat give the entire picture of a growing infant’s health?

A hand-held Doppler device assesses the presence of fetal heart pulsations only at that moment, and it is used by midwives and obstetricians to check for viability or for intermittent monitoring during labor, explains Dr. Thomas Aust and colleagues from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral in a recent article in the British Medical Journal.  “In untrained hands it is more likely that blood flow through the placenta or the mother’s main blood vessels will be heard,” say the authors.

The article outlines a case of a 27-year-old mom-to-be (at 32 weeks into her first pregnancy) with reduced fetal movements; She had first noted a reduction in her baby’s activity two days earlier but had used her own Doppler device to listen to the heartbeat and reassured herself that everything was normal.

Further monitoring by the antenatal care team was not reassuring and the baby was delivered by Caesarean section later that evening. The baby remained on the special care baby unit for eight weeks and is making steady progress.

Following this case, they searched the internet and found that a fetal Doppler device could be rented affordably by the month or purchased outright. Although the companies state that the device is not intended to replace recommended antenatal care, they also make claims such as “you will be able to locate and hear the heartbeat with excellent clarity.”

Speaking as the mother of two sons born in a birthing tub at home, assisted by midwives, I can agree that it is tempting to try to assuage worries for our baby’s health using a variety of methods; I purchased my own hand-held doppler at a drugstore (but it didn’t work nearly as well as my midwife’s. In fact, I put it aside because the intermittent, faint sound caused me more worry). The bottomline: A safe, low-risk birth of a healthy infant requires regular and attentive care by a licensed midwife or docrtor.  There are no appropriate subsitutes for experienced care by qualified health practictioners.

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Twice as many kids in ER from OTC meds August 20, 2009

This article is an excerpt from my Parenting column on

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that more than twice as many children are accidentally poisoned with prescription or over-the-counter medicines than with household consumer products.

The study, published in the August issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that the drug most commonly implicated in poisoning was acetaminophen (Tylenol and other brands), with opioid painkillers and benzodiazepine antianxiety drugs close behind.

  • Over 70,000 children under 18 visit emergency rooms annually for unintentional medication overdoses
  • Approximately 30,000 are suffering poisonings from other products.
  • More than 75% of the medication overdoses were in children under 5.
  • Most of the affected children have ingested medicines without their parents’ knowledge
  • 8% of emergency room visits and 14% of hospitalizations were the result of parents accidentally overdosing their offspring.

Dr. Daniel S. Budnitz, the senior author and epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)., said that the study did not count visits to private physicians’ offices or other health care facilities.

Dr. Budnitz said that parents should of course keep medications out of the reach of children, but that packaging improvements are also important. “Child safety caps came out in the 1970s and haven’t changed much,” he said. “There are packaging improvements that can be made, and we’re working with manufacturers and other federal agencies to encourage this..

For more info: Read the study in its entirety here.
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Eco-chic baby gifts for green mommies August 13, 2009

This is an article from my Green Living column on

Here are some fabulous eco-friendly items for green families welcoming new babies. From a natural hand moisturizer that removes germs to “green wear” for parents and baby, these are sure to please.

Hasenpfeffer Incorporated Selling under the name Hasenpfeffer (the name of one of her pet rabbits), Daniela Shelton’s hand-stitched stuffed dolls and bears hold up to actual kids’ play. Their asymmetrical shape is a bit anatomical—they seem to fall right into the crook of the hand. Familiar like a well-worn blanket or other childhood treasure, they’re quite cuddly. These little sweeties contain the standard materials: recycled wool, cotton, and buttons and hypo-allergenic poly-Dacron fiber fill, and hand-knitted outfits by her mom. Healthy for both people and the environment we live in, they’re lovely gifts for anyone who needs a little comfort every now and then. Shelton takes custom orders, too! The pieces range from $32.25 to $104.25, but the craftsmanship makes them worth every penny. Shop all Hasenpfeffer creations. (See the evolution of Shelton’s gorgeous creations!)

Innovative Eco-Cover Blocks Baby in the Sun THREE Ways!

Here’s a safe and natural way to protect infants and toddlers from the sun–at the playground, beach, or just walking around the block! The TogetherBe Peekaru Ozone blocks baby from the sun in three ways! 1. Covers baby in the car seat; 2. Covers baby in a baby carrier; and 3. Covers baby in the stroller. It fits on newborns to 24 months, and is made with an environmentally responsible Polar Tec fabric consisting of 75% recycled material, blocking 95% of the suns UVA and UVB rays. $49.95 at

OrganicJammies Teach a Lesson about Healthy Living

 New Jammies are the first certified organic collection of infant and children’s pajama wear, in the U.S, that also encourage healthy eating habits and exercise in young children. Incorporating fruit and vegetable (apples, bananas, blueberries, peas, and carrots) as well as sport (tennis, golf, swimming, and soccer) patterns, these infant and children’s pajamas come complete with companion story books (written and published by the designer) that teach how nutritious eating and exercise is a start in the right direction to living healthy. Price: $25 to $35 at

The Germaphobe’s New Go-to Prodcut

A hand moisturizer that cleans to remove germs at the same time? Move over Purell! Clean George is a natural solution for moisturizing and disinfecting hands when soap and water aren’t readily available. And, its the first organic moisturizer that is also a hand sanitizer–with NO alcohol-based ingredients, phthalates or parabens which are ingredients commonly found in other hand-sanitizing products, making it safe for children. One bottle at $9.99 lasts approximately 3 months. Shop

The FIRST plant dervived and 100% Compostable Baby Wipe

For baby, spills, travel, and everything else…Americans use 36 billion wipes a year! After learning she was wiping her first baby with a product consisting of wood pulp, rayon, polyester, plastic, parabens, and harsh chemicals, an Oregon mom has gone where none of the baby care giants have gone before. Her company, ElementsNaturals has introduced parents to the first and only baby wipe in North America that is 100% natural and produced from annually renewable materials. Made from 100% Ingeo™ fibers, the world’s first man-made fiber created from a natural material that is plant-derived, not oil-based, Ingeo fibers are free of chemical additives, synthetic materials and chemical surface treatments. The wipes can be composted, breaking down into a soil nutrient. The best part, they’re larger and thicker than traditional wipes to clean the messiest diapers. The wipes retail for $5.95 for 80 wipes at

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