Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mama Dice Comprobarlo

WonderBaby speaks Spanish. Not quite as much as she speaks English - and her English is pretty limited, seeing as she is 17 months old - but still, it's there. Water is agua, cows are vacas, sometimes bye-bye is replaced with ciao (not Spanish, I know, but idiomatically latin) and yes with si. Once, when I asked her where her Pablo (don't ask) was, she said alli esta (over there).

She speaks some Spanish because her caregiver speaks Spanish, exclusively, with her. I wanted her to learn Spanish because I speak it, and because her godfamily is Spanish, and because I fully intend for her to spend time in Spain, it being a place very much of my history and very dear to my heart. So, we've been taking every opportunity to expose her to the language.

Boca Beth was just such an opporunity - a Spanish-language learning program for children, something to pop in the DVD/CD player to augment what she's learning from her caregiver and (much more casually) from me - so I jumped at the opportunity. Our Boca Beth package included the musical CD My First Songs In Spanish, the DVD I Like Animals, a Boca Beth Coloring and Activity Book, a Boca puppet and a maraca, and WonderBaby appropriated all items immediately. Puppet was flung about, maraca was shaken and CDs and DVDs were thrust at me aggressively: ya ya ya ya ya! (WonderBaby also knows some German.)

The DVD was great - simple and engaging and just the right amount of crack-like rhythm to keep WonderBaby bouncing and hooting. (And, as I've said before, anything that distracts her from Teletubbies is GOLD - oro - in my books.) Add some maraca, and you've got a dance party with video back-up. Afterwards, chill-out to some mellow moments with the puppet and the colouring book and there's one afternoon well spent. Siesta, anyone?

My only reservations were with the musical CD. For one, I personally didn't like the music (that said, I also don't like WonderPets and I loathe Barney but I won't turn them off if WonderBaby grooves to them. And she did groove to the Boca Beth CD.) For two, I found that the repetitive transition between English and Spanish in the songs made it a bit difficult to really get into the rhythm in sing-along. As a Spanish-speaker myself, I found bouncing between languages awkward - I would have rather heard and sung-along with one whole song in Spanish, and then heard and sung-along with the entire English version, than heard one line in English, then in Spanish, then another in English, and so on and so on and so on. And I'm not convinced that this is actually effective for language development - from what I understand about second-language learning, the more immersion and the less 'back-and-forth' between languages, the better (this is why Dora isn't effective as a language learning tool - children might learn some select vocabulary, but not 'whole language.') So we'll probably stick to The Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack and the old Spanish pop songs from my iTunes library for the music part of our program.

But, still, WonderBaby liked it, and so I'll certainly pop it in the player when she asks for it. And, as I've already said, the DVD was very good, as were the colouring book and toys. We'll totally keep using them to augment our own Spanish program.

Y por eso, todo es bueno. Gracias, Boca Beth.

All of these products can be found on the BOCA BETH official website and the CD and DVD can also be found on More reviews can be found through the Parent Bloggers Network.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Spread The Word

Have I said lately about how much I love BabyLegs?

When you are travelling in uncertain climates with a toddler who insists upon climbing every elevated surface that she sees, an tiny (read: easily packable) item of clothing that provides extra warmth and knee coverage is worth many, many times its weight in gold.

BabyLegs, Overnite diapers and Children's Gravol: keeping travelling parents happy since whenever it was that someone figured out their special travel magic.

Why didn't someone tell me sooner?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Whatever Gets You Through the Night... Or the Flight

So, this review is shamefully late, due to circumstances beyond our control. BUT, but... the lateness of this review afforded further opportunity for product testing. So - all's well that ends well, no?

The product: Huggies Overnites diapers. The tester: WonderBaby, she of the exuberant bladder. The testing conditions: long nights, one long flight and one super-long car trip.

It was clear from the moment that we began using the overnight diapers that this would be an easy review to write: they worked, totally. No wet bursts in the night, no overflowing pants in the morning. Perfect. So it was that I thought that there really wasn't anything to say, review-wise: the overnight diapers work beautifully overnight, and I would totally buy them.

End review.

But then we - WonderBaby and I - took a cross-country trip involving airlines and road trips and lo, the overnight diapers revealed themselves to be useful for more than just nights. (Insert astronaut joke here.) One Huggies Overnite diaper lasts longer than a flight from Toronto to Vancouver, and longer than a road trip from Vancouver to the north Okanagan of BC (a four hour drive), and certainly longer than a flight from the Okanagan back to Vancouver, and (I'm presuming) longer than the flight from Vancouver to Toronto.

I'm actually pretty certain that we could fly from Vancouver to Japan or Toronto to Capetown or anywhere to the moon and - barring any unnecessary poo - be fine with one Huggies Overnite diaper.

It's not that I'm averse to in-flight diaper changes (well, actually, I am so averse), and it's not that I would altogether avoid diaper checks - but knowing that we can stretch the time between changes on long plane trips and road trips and the like makes travelling a lot easier.

So there you have it: Huggies Overnite diapers... not just for overnight.

And... if you leave a comment HERE, you could win a package of Overnights of your very own! Enough for a trip around the world, or two.

Monday, April 09, 2007

To Sleep, Perchance

I've struggled with insomnia for as long as I can remember. It's not a constant plague, but it is a recurring one, with bouts intruding upon my life every month or so and lasting for days and sometimes weeks (the worst stretch: four and half weeks late in the third year of my PhD, during which time I would turn up at seminars - and, once, a friend's thesis defense - and fall asleep sitting up. Not cool.) Add to this history of insomnia one restless and nap-averse toddler and you have a recipe for disaster. When Her Bad Mother does not sleep at night and WonderBaby does not sleep during the day, life becomes very unpleasant.

So when Julie and Kristen send around an e-mail asking if anyone was interested in checking out Michael Breus' Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health, I was all, like, HELLS YEAH. Where do I sign? And, do you need my soul in exchange, or anything like that?

But then the book comes and I read the first half and am all excited to see if it will work on me - and no insomnia hits. For weeks. Weeks and weeks. Weeks and weeks and weeks go by and I have no trouble sleeping. Even when I hit a patch of extreme busy-ness (communications conference in Kentucky; re-launching MommyBlogsToronto; marking crap-ass undergraduate papers), I continued to sleep well. (I did, I should note, have some sort of mock-cardiac arrest towards the end of those weeks but dammit - I SLEPT WELL.)

So, no, I didn't exactly implement the smart sleep strategies that Dr. Breus recommends, nor did I put myself through Sleep Boot Camp. I'm superstitious - I figured that if I messed with whatever it was that was allowing me to sleep soundly through a period of stress, I would be asking for trouble. But I did study the book closely, and noted that some of the things that I had been doing incidentally were things that the good doctor recommended as part of good sleep habits: not checking e-mail (or, um, blogging) in the hour before bedtime, not consuming alcohol before bedtime, sticking to a regular bedtime, having a wind-down period, etc. It hadn't occured to me that these might be strategies for ensuring good sleep (with the exception of the early computer turn-off policy - I realized that I needed some distance from my virtual life before settling to sleep in real life), but lo and behold, they (among other things) are exactly that.

And that, really, is what is so useful about the book - without beating you over the head or insisting that you must follow this advice or die, it encourages you to take a careful look at your sleep habits and figure out what works for you and what does not. For some people, reading is good pre-sleep ritual (note, however, that it might matter what you read. This hadn't occured to me: I always read before bed, but hadn't paid much attention to what I was reading. This was one of many duh moments that I had while reading Breus' book.) For others, reading (or sex, or conversation) is too stimulating. Some people can't fall asleep without the TV on - he discourages this, but states matter-of-factly that if you're one of those people who needs the television to sleep, by all means keep doing it, but be alert to issues like level of volume, and maybe get a timer to turn it off or manage the volume.

I really appreciated the fact that he was not dogmatic about sleep strategies - I've read too many books about getting your child to sleep that warn dire consequences for straying from THE PROGRAM to have any patience for dogmatism in the arena of sleep. The emphasis on figuring out what works for you - and the provision of really, really good strategies for figuring out what works for you - rather than insisting upon adopting specific practices that may or may not be practical or desirable takes the stress out of addressing your sleep problems. And that's, like, three-quarters of the battle right there.

So I'm keeping this book on my bedside - it's already proved useful, and I've no doubt that when the insomnia hits again and I need to hit sleep bootcamp, I'll be ready.

FINAL WORD: Either this book has talismanic properties and the mere presence of it at my bedside is ensuring good sleep, or even casual adoption of its ideas and strategies and - most importantly - attitude toward sleep is effective in improving sleep. I'm pushing over two months now of no insomnia, and that's unusual for me.

Check out more reviews of Good Night at the Parent Bloggers Network; and check out Dr Breus' sleep advice at his website -