Lake Loving in a Safe Life Jacket

Jack is fascinated by water. Spends hours in the lake. To title him a “water baby” is an understatement. He’s a fish. 

The past few weeks we’ve spent enjoying numerous lakes. A favorite hobby of ours, true to our Michigan blood. Motorboats, sandcastle-worthy beaches and spring-fed fishing waters paint our summer days. Despite our regular routine on the lakes, Jack knows the limits. That was until Sunday.

Jack at my parent's crystal blue cove, Dunham Lake, Mich.
Most parents have been here. If not, they will be. So, take warning. It's the few seconds when your child's head slips under water. A parents superhuman powers take over. Scooping them up. Cradling. Hugging. Hushing. Unfortunately, the image is forever scorched.

On Sunday, we lazily fished from atop my parent's paddleboat. We stopped on the tree-lined bank to take a refreshing break. The deep water drop off only steps away. Four parents. Two tots. Both in life jackets. Jack trekked the muddy knee-high water. Exploring. Our friend asked my husband to remove a hooked fish. Jack's eyes widen. He urgently squirmed towards Justin and the fish.  As he attempted to maneuver behind the boat, his foot slipped. Passed the drop off. Within seconds he was floating. Face down. His life jacket bottled around his neck. He flailed his arms, but the vest prevented the ability to pull his head above water. By the time I gasped he was in my arms. A tiny cry. super shaky. But, he hadn't inhaled water. The underwater adventures in the tub had actually taught him to hold his breath. But, what the Sam Adams was up with his life jacket? 

He needed a new jacket. So that week I dove into research. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) developed resources and guides on choosing the proper personal flotation device (PFD) for children. Accompanied by a clear list of tested and approved products.

“A PFD will keep a child afloat, but may not keep a struggling child face-up.” 

The USCG recommends a Type II jacket for infants and young children. Type II can turn a person upright and slightly backward and comes in many sizes for children. Read the full USCG article here, and access the list of Select Type II Infant and Infant/Child PFDs here. Or, check out the USCG Equipment List to find out if your child’s life jacket is approved. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics states:
“Use only life jackets and life preservers that are tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and approved by the US Coast Guard. If they are, they will have a label that says so. Life jackets and life preservers are labeled by type (1, 2, 3 or 4) and for whom they are designed (child or adult).”

A few other resources for choosing children's life jackets:

Check the manufacturer's label to ensure that the life jacket is a proper fit for your child's size and weight.  Make sure the jacket is properly fastened and hold his/her arms over head. Grasp the tops of the arm openings and gently pull up.  Make sure there is no excess room above the openings and that the jacket does not ride up over his/her chin or face. 

Life Jackets
TYPE 1: This jacket floats the best. It is designed to turn most people who are unconscious in the water from the face-down position to an upright and slightly backward position. This jacket helps the person to stay in that position for a long time. It is to be used in open water and oceans. It is available in only 2 sizes: 1 size for adults more than 90 pounds and 1 size for children less than 90 pounds.

TYPE 2: This jacket can turn a person upright and slightly backward but not as much as the Type 1 jacket. It may not always help an unconscious person to float face up. It is comfortable and comes in many sizes for children.

TYPE 3: This jacket is designed for conscious users in calm, inland water. It is very comfortable and comes in many styles. This life jacket is often used for water sports and should be used only when it is expected that the rescue can be done quickly.

Life Preservers

TYPE 4: A life preserver is a cushion or ring and is not worn. It is designed to be used in 2 ways. It can be grasped and held until the person is rescued, or it can be thrown to someone in the water until he or she is rescued. It is not a toy and should only be used in a rescue situation. Check the label on the life preserver to be sure it meets US Coast Guard or state regulations.

The U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also offers Pool Safely as an entire resource guide with up-to-date information


Dreaming of Baby Girl's Room

Browsing nursery ideas today.

I came across some inspiration for our soon-to-be little girl’s room. Pieces already in place: camel painted walls, white trim, white dresser & crib, white rocker with neutral cloth cover. Here's a mix of my plans:

Crib blanket from Wooland Rabbit on Etsy   
Blanket from Sugar and Spice on Etsy

Owl Family Mobile from Petit Collage
Cherry Blossom wall decal from Surface Inspired
Book holder from You Name it Baby!

Lamp from Baby Parade  

Silver bird bookends from Pottery Barn Kids


It's All in the Lunchbox

One of my favorite challenges is finding well-rounded choices for my toddler’s lunchbox. The daughter of a dietitian, I strive for healthy chow. Providing Jack with all the goodness of fruits, veggies, whole grains and dairy is a Top Five parent goal. Plus, it ensures he’s able to jump off the coffee table without breaking a leg. My husband and I have also benefited from this healthy fixation. Fresh fruits are always available. Cooked dinners are regular protocol. And I can’t even remember what Fruity Pebbles taste like.

Jack’s at daycare, aka “school,” two days a week. One workday with Nana. The others with me, weekends with Justin & me.  Speedy, effortless lunches are a necessity with little ones. Their patience lasts three seconds. There’s no time between coloring books and crashing toy trucks to chop/prep/cook a cuisine. We need quick, easy and delicious.

Grilled cheeses, quesadillas, pastas and potpies are a cinch at home. The true test is daycare. Packed lunch. Something I’ll be doing for 18 years. Well, most days.

I’m determined not to crumble to the simplicity of the school’s “hot lunch.” It includes fruit, but usually paired with nuggets or pizza. Jack fancies the nuggets. Yesterday, his report even boasted, “Jack loves the hot lunch!” Explanation point. I refuse to give in – well yet. We’ll see how I feel when little miss baby arrives, right? For now, such a statement pushed me to get even more creative.

When Jack arrived in the toddler group several months ago, the teachers gushed over the range and substance of his lunches. But I’ll admit. I’ve slacked. Summer’s been enormously hectic. But now I’m back in the game.

A few old favorites include ham & cheese pinwheels, peanut butter whole-wheat crackers, avocado and/or flavored cream cheese tortilla rolls, bagel sandwiches. Of course, the ol’ favorite peanut butter & jelly. All paired with a cup of Jack’s fabulously favorite fruits (bananas, strawberries, Clementine’s, peaches, grapes or blueberries) and a tiny side (string cheese, muffin, banana bread, carrots, pickle, etc.).

After some digging, I found a few new recipes to try. A few also uncovered inspired creations of my own. Here are some clever & delicious lunchbox solutions (summer-themed of course!):

Typical Italian Pasta Salad
(Inspired from creation I learned in college by my bff and former roomie, Kelly, aka Jack’s Godmother)
- Spiral, tri-color or favorite pasta
- Salami and ham lunch meats
- Block of cheddar, mozzarella and/or Colby cheeses
- Black olives
- Green and/or red pepper(s)
- Onion
- Italian salad dressing

One of my favorites (and Justin’s). Make as much or little as you want. Prep on a Sunday night and refrigerate. Add ingredient variations, your kid’s favorites or different dressings. Easy as cook pasta, drain, add ingredients, drench with Italian dressing to taste.

Egg & Bacon Roll
(From a lunchbox recipe book I picked up at Kohl’s)

- Slice of bacon
- 1 egg
- 1 roll
- Half a tomato, seeded (optional)
- Black pepper

Recipe is for one serving, but double/triple recipes for later use (or you!). Make egg/bacon filling the day before and refrigerate overnight. Prep/cook time: 17 minutes total. Cook bacon until crisp, let cool. Boil egg for roughly 6 minutes until yolk is very slightly runny. Cool egg under cold running water. Peel egg, place in bowl and roughly chop. Cut bacon into small pieces, stir in egg. Season. Cut roll, squeeze/rub tomato onto one half, then spoon in egg/bacon mix. Sandwich!

Apple Coleslaw

- 4 oz. red or white cabbage, grated
- 1 large carrot
- 2 scallions, finely sliced
- Apple, cored & grated
- 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. mayonnaise

Serving for four. Make in advance and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Prep time: 10 minutes. Mix cabbage, carrot, onions and apple together. Whisk oil and lemon juice together, then stir in mayo. Spoon dressing over salad and stir until combined. Easy right?

Mini Pizza

- English muffins
- Jar of marinara sauce
- Steamed broccoli, spinach or other fav of child (optional)
- Shredded mozzarella cheese

Make as many as you desire! Best made the night before to save morning time. Spread marinara over English muffin halves. If desired, add chopped broccoli/spinach to sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Let cool, then wrap up.

My Fav Resources: Healthy Child, Healthy World, Disney's Family Fun, Parenting Magazine Online and good ol’ family traditions.


Love Letters: Note From Nana

Today is the first of my new series, “Love Letters.” Capturing thoughts, advice and memories for Jack and his soon-to-be new baby sister. The series will be randomly posted and sprinkled among my typical discovery blogs. All from family and friends tied to Jack ‘n baby. I'm interested to see all the assorted thoughts of love and hugs.

Dear Jack, 

Jack with Nana S., 7.4.10
So your parents blew the whole attachment anxiety thing.  Cut them some slack.  You are their firstborn and they are going to make some mistakes with you.  Trust me. There is going to come a time when you no longer want to be in the same room with them, much less in their bed.  Besides, you have bigger things to worry about.  Baby girl is going to arrive before you know it.  If I was you, I would start working on my game plan - how you are going to deal with this disruption in your life.  After all, you have been the prince of the household for almost two years now.  You can always come live with either of your Nanas (but not until you are sleeping through the night in your own bed)!

Love you, little boy.
Nana S.


The One Thing I Know For Sure

Today’s post is inspired from a blog I love to follow, Sometimes Sweet:

The older we get, the more certain we get about who we are and what our purpose is.  For me, a lot of it is still unknown, but as I make my way down my own path, I have begun to realize that there are indeed some inevitable truths that I know for sure. On your own blog, write a post that talks about "the one thing you know for sure."

The answer for me is clear. It’s the unconditional love and admiration of my family. Including the little girl who continues to kick the inside of my belly button and the two rescued pups who make the family round.

Pre-marriage and babies, I was career-driven. Wanting to make the biggest splash for my name. My desires today appear much smaller to everyone else, but much larger to me. My toddler saying “thank you.” My husband kissing me to sleep every night. My baby girl as healthy as her brother. 

My future is not what I imagined. It’s much brighter. As my goals changed, so did my plans. There are no more plans. My husband and I are living in the moments. And I’m breathing in every single memory of my family. My biggest accomplishment. My life’s dream in motion.

Sleep Baby Sleep

I’m pushing the hot parenting button.

A recent slumber situation has made me want to offer my pennies on sleep training. But before going forward, understand it’s my little opinion based on my little child. As a journalist, I’ve done the research, checked the facts. Here’s my story.

When Jack was a baby baby (always a baby in my eyes) he was labeled, “a poor sleeper.” I heard the “slept through the night at six weeks” stories and “just let him cry himself to sleep” advice. Okay. Sure.

By seven months, we were boiling with frustration over the 45-minute rockings, bed-sharing and pacifier-replacing routines. The rope had ended.

True to my abilities, I researched sleep training beyond necessary. Cry it out. No tears. Ferber. Weissbluth. Sears. The advice on baby sleeping is endless.

Like most sane parents, I hated to hear my baby cry, so Ferber was out. After a few weeks of “no tear” attempts, Ferber was in.  Wanting to do it right without inflicting any emotional damage, I purchased Dr. Richard Ferber’s book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. Read it, highlighted it, lived it.

We did every step exactly as Ferber suggested. One week, three days. Jack was sleeping through the night. It wasn’t easy, surely not beautiful. Justin and I even spent multiple nights in separate beds (not part of “the plan”). I prayed to God more than I’d ever. Amazing how two hours of sleep can suffice efficiently for an eight-hour workday.

Needless to say, Jack’s been a trooper despite his issues with sleep. He puts himself down. Rarely fusses at bed or nap times. Wakes up occasionally, usually sick or thirsty. And falls back into slumber easily.

Now 22 months, three weeks. Another story.

Before our Fourth of July trip, Jack developed a fear of the shadows stretching from his nightlight. For three nights he woke up, pointing, worriedly asking about the “dows.” We’d gone to the cabin where shadows don’t exist and when we returned his fear escalated, without our notice.

As first-time parenting maze navigators, Justin and I couldn’t figure it out. Maybe he’d become accustom to our nightlong presence during all of our recent travels. We didn’t even attribute his needy-ness to the shadows. After a few days of bedtime struggling, we began to “cry it out” again.

Five days later, Jack clinged to me. Justin couldn’t leave the room. And his nighttime tantrums weren’t even seconds better. Jack’s voice was missing and we were done. We pitched the method and I returned to the Ferber book for a refreshing answer.

Ah-ha. Separation anxiety.  Can be triggered by a scary movie, bad dream or something else nighttime related. Those darn shadows. Unfortunately for Jack, our learning curve led us without GPS, and we only made the situation spiral out of control. Literally to the point where he couldn’t remember the initial cause, only that we’ve abandoned him in his fear. Great parenting Leah and Justin. Awesome job. Luckily for us, there’s a solution. Should only take a few weeks – at most – and it doesn’t involve crying. To the opposite. It involves lots of snuggles, reassurance and hugs. Now that’s my kind of method.

So the secret uncovered wasn’t really a secret at all. Just an insecurity in my instinct. Parents know their child best. Not a book, not our parents, not the Internet. Like we’ve all heard too many times:

“Parents know what’s best.”

So I’ve learned the lesson to listen to my senses. Each child is different, and each situation is different. Take the advice, research the methods and make a customized solution for your family. Now that’s the only answer I’ve found to work.


Lake Huron Rocks

As mentioned in the last post, "Capturing Pieces of Michigan's North," I wanted to collect Jack's Lake Huron rock findings in a glass jar. Well here it is, looks like we'll need to gather more during our next trip.

We're still in the process of inventing his new Great Outdoors-themed bedroom (refinishing the baby's room trim, moving the nursery furniture over and purchasing new items here-and-there before we begin Jack's room), so for now the rocks sit atop his night stand, next to his current favorite bedtime story. A tiny piece of Lake Huron right at his fingertips.


Capturing Pieces of Michigan's North

A little late on this post, but I’ve been taking action on the many ideas that unraveled during the Fourth of July weekend. Countless use of rocks, sparkling fireworks, a sandy beach and the company of family carved numerous collectable memories to share.

We had trekked to the furthest tip of Michigan’s mitt, where the north’s rocky shoreline has met my Dad’s dream, a log cabin peaking through the woods and the sky-blue Lake Huron. My husband’s Mom and Dad (divorced, but happily co-existing) and my Mom (not divorced, but happily living downstate) also made the trip.

Discovery No. 1: Jack’s addiction to rocks. He absolutely cannot get enough. Luckily, the cabin’s shoreline is littered for miles. While I knew the toddler was obsessed, I never uncovered his compulsiveness to collect, keep and throw until this trip. 

Skipping stones with Dad. He was thrilled with screeches when thrown rocks split on impact. 

I asked my Dad to watch Jack for a little while, then witnessed this bottle-worthy moment. Showing Papa his fascination with gathering and throwing Earth’s carvings.

I saved a handful of the best Jack collected to be placed in a glass jar and shelved in his new outdoor-themed bedroom. I also saved a few favorites of my own findings.

Discovery No. 2: Jack’s luck of grandparents. He’s fortunate enough to share his exploration years with four willing-and-able elders. A ready-to-go team of loving hugs and encouraging smiles. One night was spent watching fireworks from his blow-up mattress bed with his two Nanas. Another pointing out birds to his Papa, a fellow bird-lover. Determined now to have him soak up time with them, his eyes are brighter when they're around.

 Snuggling with Nana S. (My Mom). He has the softest tone with her.
Discovery No. 3: Jack’s love to explore. Most toddlers love to discover the world, and his fascination with simple things is something to cherish. I constantly remind myself to let him uncover mysteries. After all, this world is brand new and oh-so captivating.

Magical sand.

Relaxation, Oreos and curious eyes with a wildflower discovery.

To Do’s From the Weekend:
Create glass jar of rocks
Print memorable photos to frame
Make plans with Jack’s grandparents

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