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{Photo by ButterflySha}

March 2008
Issue # 005

Happy Easter!

Easter is perhaps the merriest holiday of the year. Pastels, flowers, candy, little baby chicks... you would have to out-grinch the Grinch to not relish it.

Easter has always been my psychological doorway to Spring (even if it's in March!).

My husband and I enjoy snowy winters (why else would we live in Wisconsin!) But with nearly 80 inches of snow this winter, I'm looking past the piles of white to the beach of Lake Michigan with a far-off (and slightly maniacal) look on my face.

The approaching Easter holiday is like a postcard from a dear friend. After three weeks of rotating sickness in my family, a visit from "Spring" is irresistibly exciting.

{Photo by audi_insperation's}

But Easter is more than just a herald of change. It is a herald of hope.

It was at Easter that all my sins (past and future) were justified and I was made pure before God through Jesus Christ.

Because of Easter, I have a new life to live - one with a full purpose and meaning. One that gives me peace and joy (that surpasses all understanding) during both the times of trial and the times of triumph.

I no longer live only for myself. I live for the joy of serving the God who saved me. Although that service is not always easy, I cannot express the overwhelming peace I have in living it.

For this reason, Easter is my favorite holiday. If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ as Savior and God, or if you're not sure that's anything more than empty words, consider these...

Whether you will be searching for eggs in snow-banks or sand-dunes, I pray this Easter season will provide new hope and encouragement to you and yours.

Treasures in This Issue:

Site Secrets

In Case You Missed It...

Here are some of the new pages published recently at The Essential Infant Resource for Moms that you may have missed. As always, sign up for the Infant Blog and be notified instantly of all new or altered pages!

It's Coming...and I Can't Wait

As many of you may have guessed, since starting this website I've been longing for more online-interaction with my visitors.

Although I spend significant time researching every article I write for the site, I realize I am just one mother of millions. the very near future I will be revealing the opportunity for you to share your thoughts and ideas about baby topics.

I'm dying to tell-all...but prudence is telling me to be patient.

Look for all the details on this new opportunity in next month's issue on April 1st.


musing definition
Every mother longs for her baby to grow into a strong, capable, intelligent and wise adult.

Don't bother breaking out the flashcards. There are other simple things you can do to help your baby's mind grow into it's full potential.

Stimulating Your Baby's Mind:
The Do's and Don'ts

{Photo by Qole Pejorian}
No matter how much time you spend with your baby, it's hard not to break out in a cold sweat after hearing the reminder that "the early years are critical for later life".

Here's the good news. Baby brain stimulation is so simple, chances are you are already doing it.

Think of your baby's mind as a garden. The more we plant and cultivate the "good crops" of speech, social interaction, and other learning patterns, the more likely those skills will grow into healthy trees, instead of being weeded-out due to lack of use.

The Do's...

Make Eye Contact

The first thing a baby is able to do (besides cry) after leaving the womb, is to find your face. Your face will be his first toy, his first fascination. Just imagine - from leaving darknesss, to moving lights and shapes. Is it no wonder he can't keep his eyes off you?

The ability to move our eyes in a coordinated fashion is a skill we developed as babies. By slowly moving your face from side to side, you will be helping your newborn begin to learn how to track items and work the muscles of both eyes simultaneously.

Talk, Talk, Talk

From the earliest age, you should talk to your baby as if she understands you, pointing out things, and mimicking her sounds. Getting her used to the sound of words will help her work on creating her own. Reading out loud, singing, listening to music, all are things that will help stimulate her auditory system and speed up her social and language development.

Touch Your Baby

There is strong scientific evidence indicating that showing love and attention through touch in the first few years of life has a direct and measurable impact on a child's physical, mental, and emotional growth. Neuroscientist Marian Diamond even suggests that touch will cause your little one's brain to grow.

Stimulate his ability to feel by introducing him to various textures. Have him touch Daddy's face before he shaves. Let him play on the carpet, rug, tile, hardwood floors and grass. The differences and exploration will fascinate him.

The Don'ts...

Smoke Around Your Baby

It is common knowledge that smoking while pregnancy is a no-no that can seriously impair your baby's brain development. But did you know that close-proximity secondhand smoke is also detrimental to your child's health?

Four times as many babies end up in the hospital in the first year of life who have a smoking parent than those babies who don't.

If you smoke, here's what you can do to minimize this developmental doorstop.

  • Quit as soon as you can. CigArrest is offering a free 30 day trial.
  • Breastfeed. The nutrients in breastmilk will provide your baby with a stronger immune system. There have even been studies that have shown that breastfeeding can decrease the negative effects of cigarette smoke on a baby's lungs. (It's still best you quit as soon as possible, those effects are still there, just not as much.)
  • Purchase a high-quality air purifier.
  • Smoke outside the home, and don't smoke while your baby is in the car.

Expose Your Baby to Lead

Lead is a serious danger to young children. A build up of lead in your baby can lead to serious neurological problems and even death. It is so serious that the government regulates the amount of lead that can be used in manufacturing. If a toy contains to much lead, it will be recalled.

Other than recalled toys, lead can pop up in surprising places:

  • In the paint in older homes (before 1950). This can be in your home, the daycare, Grandma's house...anywhere.
  • Homes with older lead pipes may have lead leaking into the drinking and washing water.
  • Brass keys (Keys are not toys!)
  • Old vinyl flooring
  • From the hands of loved ones who work with stained glass, pottery, furniture refinishing, guns, or other manufacturing jobs involving lead.

Lead particles can be ingested by breathing or swallowing. Lead cannot be absorbed through the skin.

A simple blood test is all that's required to check your baby for lead poisoning. My home was built in 1912. I make lead testing a routine part of well-baby care. Speak to your doctor about getting your infant tested.

Allow Baby too Much TV

Television, when used appropriately with older children, can be very beneficial. I'll never forget the day my 3-year-old pointed at a picture and stated, "Look Mom! The Palace of Versailles!" (Thank you, Little Einsteins!)

However, studies have shown that babies 8-16 months old should spend limited time in front of the tube. The study showed that for every hour these infants spent watching TV (even Baby Einstein) they understood an average of six to eight fewer words than those infants who didn't watch TV. Those babies exposed to TV also got scores on language skills tests that were 17% lower than non-TV watching infants. (Babies older than 16 months did not show any adverse affects.

If you have older children in the home, it may be more difficult to contain your baby's curiousity. Make the effort to keep your baby in the other room, or eating a snack in his high-chair when older siblings are having their TV-time.

It should be comforting to know that everything you need to stimulate your baby you are most likely already doing.

It should also be comforting to know that everything that could harm your baby's development is a matter of lifestyle-adjustments. They may be difficult, but they are definitely do-able.

Bales, Diane. "Building the Baby's Brain: The Basics"

Smith, Millie. "Here's Looking at You Mom: The Role of Gaze in Early Attachment." Visions. June, 1995.

Diamond, Marian. Magic Trees of the Mind: How to Nurture Your Child's Intelligence, Creativity, and Healthy Emotions From Birth Through Adolescence.

Goldstein, Lisa. "Smoke Into the Mouths of Babes."

"Educational Videos May Not Make Baby Brainy, Study Finds" August 8, 2007

April's Merry Mother Feature Article will be: Combo Feeding: Using Breastmilk and Formula Together

baby food recipes

This Month's Quote:

That most sensitive, most delicate of instruments -- the mind of a little child!
~ Henry Handel Richardson

Click here for more.

Despite all the attention Easter is getting this month, there's a little holiday on the 17th that is being pushed aside.

It's St. Patrick's Day on the 17th!

In lieu of being beaten by leprechauns, I'm revealing the hidden location of the allusive pot of gold. (Hint: It's in your pantry.)

Pot of Gold

  • 4 cups apple juice, white grape juice, or pear juice
  • 6 packages of unflavored gelatin

Step One: In a large bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 cup of the juice and allow to stand a few minutes, stirring until you get a mushy-mixture.

Step Two: Meanwhile, heat the remaining 3 cups of juice until just boiling and pour into the gelatin mixture. Stir until gelatin is completely dissolved.

Step Three: Pour into a 9x9 pan and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

{Photo by listentoreason}
Step Four: After firming, cut into squares and dice into pieces no bigger than your baby's thumb.

Although your infant can drink these juices at as young as 7 months, this is primarily a finger-food and should be reserved until he has mastered the ability to pick up small objects. When will he develop this fine motor skill?

Jiggly jello makes a nasty shampoo. Glance over February's "Heather's Hints" in the archives for a great tip to prevent sticky-baby-head syndrome.

Super Baby Food is my source for much of the information I share (and have learned) about baby food. This excellent book lists when it is safe to introduce certain foods to your baby's diet. It also describes (in helpful detail) how to save money by making your own baby food.


{Photo by city mama}
Section targeting If you've never tried Irish Soda Bread, there is definitely something missing from your St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

A hard crust and a moist center makes this one of my family's favorite breads. Baking it on St. Patrick's Day is a yearly tradition. It's really simple and soooo yummy.

Since I'm bombarded every year with requests for the recipe, I thought I'd jump ahead this year and share it before the holiday comes.

Irish Soda Bread

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs butter, chilled and diced
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Step One: Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spoon both flours into measuring cups and level with a knife before placing in a bowl. Add brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Step Two: Using clean hands, squeeze the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Stir just until moist.

Step Three: Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 5 or 6 times. Pat the dough into an 8-inch circle and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Score an "X" a quarter inch deep into the top of the loaf.

Step Four: Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Stout Chocolate Cherry Bread

If you want to kick your Irish bread "up a notch," try my Stout Chocolate Cherry Bread. It combines three of my husband's favorite things: Guinness, chocolate, and cherries. If you'd like to get this recipe, contact me here and I'll happily email it to you. (It's a bit too long for the newsletter!)


Are Plastic Baby Bottles Safe?

A new study examined the amount of chemicals being released into your baby's milk after warming up plastic bottles. In this article in TIME Magazine, the debate over the safety of plastic bottles is summarized.

February Celebrity Births

  • Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony welcomed the birth of twins, Max and Emme.
  • John C. McGinley (Scrubs) and wife welcomed a little girl, Billie Grace.
  • Vincent D'Onofrio (Law and Order: Criminal Intent) and wife had a baby boy, Luca.

infant activities

{Photo by Royalty-Free Image}

0-3 Months:

Using a feather or soft object (like the $1 baby chicks at waling), tickle your baby across the arms, tummy and face. Introduce other textures like leather, corduroy, silk, etc.

Watch your baby's face and reactions to see which she enjoys (and which she doesn't!).

This activity helps build tactile awareness and social development.

3-6 Months:
Grab the Toy

Find a small Easter stuffed animal (like a bunny) and tie it to a piece of string.

Placing your baby in your lap, swing the toy slowly in front of her.

Encourage her to reach out and try to grab to toy, praising her for any effort she makes.

This activity builds eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, and visual development.

Warning: strings are a safety hazard when not supervised by an adult.

6-9 Months: Unwrap a Smile

Gather some favorite toys and wrap them (loosely) in newspaper or wrapping paper, placing them in an Easter basket.

He will enjoy the experience of ripping the paper open to see what's inside. He will most likely also enjoy the sound of the paper being ripped. (Be patient, it may take him some time to explore how to rip the paper.)

This activity will help him develop his fine motor skills, encourage problem solving, and provide tactile stimulation.

{Photo by sfllaw}

12-18 Months:
Egg Toss

Using a large stainless steel bowl, assist your baby in throwing or dropping plastic eggs into the bowl.

The interesting sound each egg makes when hitting the bowl will delight your baby.

This simple and fun infant activity teaches eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, cause and effect, and the concept of grasp and release.

9-12 Months:
A Tisket A Tasket

In a small-sided basket, place empty plastic eggs, stuffed animals, cloth flowers, and other appropriately-sized Easter items around the house.

Encourage your baby to take the items out and explore each one. Name each item as he takes them out. Once the basket is empty, encourage him to fill the basket up again.

This activity works on fine motor skills, auditory comprehension, and eye-hand coordination.

Eventually, he may begin to lose interest in playing these games. Don't force anything. If that seems to be the case, simply try out some of the infant activities in previous newsletters.

Most of these activities were adapted from Gymboree's book, Baby Play: 100 Fun-Filled Activities to Maximize Your Baby's Potential. This book has full-color photographs that make it fun to read and easier to implement.

heather's hints

My firstborn, Lauren, was (and is) a picky eater. Getting her to eat vegetables was a messy battle of wills.

At around her first birthday, I shifted tactics. And for 3 more years (until she "wised up") I was successfully getting two or more vegetable servings in her a day - without a word of complaint.

My Little Secret to Sneaking in the Veggies

At the age of one, I started mixing a little bit of low-sodium V8 in every bottle of juice. At first, it was just a splash. By the time her second birthday came around, it was up to an ounce in every cup of juice.

Lauren had no idea that "apple juice" did not taste like one-sixth V8 until she was 4.

Here are the guidelines to try this secret:

  • Your baby should be at least one before having tomato juice mixtures (to prevent allergies).
  • Always purchase low-sodium V8.
  • Add small amounts at the beginning and build up.
  • You can add it to any of your baby's favorite juices. Mixing it with a stronger juice, like grape, may mask the taste more than a watery-juice like apple.

There have been 12 recalls since the last Merry Mother was published in February. Seven of those recalls were toys, and five were cribs. The details are below.

Toy Recalls

The following toys were recalled in February. Two of these toys (the Cinderella Car and the Helicopter) involved electrical shorts that caused fires.

    {The Cinderella car recalled
    after starting a fire.}
  • Magnetic Dart Boards
  • rhinestone Children's Necklaces
  • Spiderman Water Bottles
  • Cinderella Battery-Powered Toy Cars
  • Remote-Controlled Helicopter Toys
  • Egg-Shaker Toy Instruments
  • Toy Gardening Rakes

Access the 2008 Toy Recall Report here to make sure you don't have any of these toys.

Crib Recall

Munire Furniture has recalled these five cribs in February:
  • Majestic Curved Top
  • Flat Top Cribs
  • Essex Cribs
  • Brighton/Sussex Cribs
  • Captiva Cribs

See what these cribs look like and why they were recalled by accessing the Crib Recall Report here.

If you would like to check recalled strollers, swings, cribs or other baby furniture to ensure they aren't lurking in a corner of your home, view all the recall reports.


I hope you've enjoyed reading March's issue of The Merry Mother. It's my prayer that Easter can be a significant time of connecting with your family, and most importantly, with God.

The next issue will be published on April 1st. So watch your Inbox! smiley

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Thank You Readers!

Thank you so much for reading and subscribing to this newsletter. It is a labor of love. I'm happy to know others enjoy reading it as much as I do writing it.

My growing subscriber list shows that you have been sharing it with your friends, and for that I am deeply grateful.


P.S. Be sure to check back at The Essential Infant Resource for Moms, your friend-next-door for questions-answered, stories-told, and laughs-had.

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