Monthly Archives: April 2012

Seven Great Bookcases for Your Little Bookworm

Olivia loves books; so naturally, her collection is growing exponentially thanks to yours truly (I read for a living, so I’m positively giddy that she likes books). It’s a good thing we are inheriting my sister’s old dollhouse bookshelf (as soon as we find a place to put it!), because we are rapidly running out of room. If your child’s library is also multiplying like rabbits, check out these great bookcases that are perfect for your little bookworm:

KidKraft Swivel Bookshelf/Mirror, $109.99

aly and company bookcase, $260

Oeuf Mini Library, $660

Firefighter Revolving Bookcase, $159.99

Target Tot Tutors Book Rack, $31.99

IKEA, Hensvik Cabinet and Shelf, $109

Land of Nod Library Cart, $199

Teach Your Child to Communicate: Tips for Facilitating Language Development

Here is part two of last week’s post by guest blogger and practicing speech pathologist, Shannon. Enjoy!

As a speech pathologist, parents often ask me two questions. The first question is, “Is my child’s speech normal?”  I covered normal and abnormal speech development in last week’s post, which you can see here. The second question I am always asked is, “How can I teach my child to talk?” This post will provide tips on how to facilitate speech and language development for your child.

As a parent, you play a key role in helping your child learn the English language. There are many simple activities that you can do to encourage communication. These activities are effective, rewarding, and are used by speech pathologists in early intervention.

What can I do to facilitate speech and language development for my child? 

  1. Talk to your child and narrate your activities.  One of my favorite activities is going to the grocery store.  I tell my son everything that I am getting, and he imitates the foods he can say. 
  2. Simplify your speech.  Don’t speak in long, complex sentences when trying to facilitate language for a young toddler.  Words that are harder to pronounce can be shortened or simplified to encourage communication.  For example, I taught my son to say “wawa” for water and “baba” for bottle. 
  3. Start with small, simple words, such as animal sounds (moo, neigh, baa) or words that have duplicated syllables.  There is a reason that “mama” and “dada” are often a child’s first “words.”  Duplicated syllables are very easy for a child to pronounce. Words like “baba,” “wawa,” “nana” for banana, and “ni-ni” for night-night are examples of good words to try.
  4. If your child does say a word for the first time, praise her for it, and try to introduce that word into your activities throughout the day.  For example, when my child learned to say “hop,” I made every stuffed animal hop, and I modeled “hop” for him until that word was set in his vocabulary.  This strategy is often more effective than asking your child to say words on command. Asking your child to say a word on command, particularly if she just learned it, can put more pressure on her than just modeling it for her and seeing if she repeats it.
  5. Use baby signs.  There is numerous research to show the effectiveness of baby sign language.  Signs are effective because you can teach a child sign by using the hand-over-hand approach. With this approach, you take your child’s hands and do the targeted sign with her hands. As soon as you and your child do the sign, give your child the desired item.  For example, if you are working on the sign for “more,” give your child the desired toy or food as soon as you sign “more” with him.  The instant gratification will teach your child the function of communication and will make her want to keep signing. Easy signs for a child to learn include the signs for more, all done, eat, drink, help, go, and stop.  There are several websites, books, and DVDs available that teach baby sign language. A reliable website is
  6. Give your child what he is asking for within reason.  Children need to understand the importance and function of communication.  They are communicating with you to ask for something.  If your child says “wawa,” give her a sip of water because that gives her a reward and shows her that she is being understood.  She will then want to say this word again and again because she is getting what she is asking for.
  7. Expand your child’s speech.  If your child says, “Elmo jump,” you can say, “Elmo is jumping.”
  8. Read to your child. I can’t reinforce this enough: reading to your child provides him with so many benefits, one of which is facilitating speech and language development.

What are some online resources for activities?

The American Speech Language Association Public Website

Baby Signs

icommunicate Speech & Communication Therapy

Conquering the Toddler Teeth Beast

Bedtime in our house is mostly smooth sailing. . . until it’s time to brush teeth. That’s when my sweet, sleepy daughter usually does her stubborn, flailing impression of the Exorcist, whipping her head from side to side and refusing to open her mouth even a millimeter. You would think we were trying to pull her teeth out with pliers!

So I went in search of ideas to make brushing more fun (and frankly just bearable) for all of us. The most common advice I read was to get an electric toothbrush (batteries=toy!) and warm up your vocal cords, because you will undoubtedly be singing some ridiculous made-up song about brushing your teeth. Karaoke skills aside, here are a few things I found that will hopefully get your little one, and mine, to open up and say “Ah!”

Spinbrush My Way! Decorate-Your-Own Toothbrush, $4.99

Colgate My First Fruity Toothpaste, $2.97

Sparkle Fun Crest Toothpaste, $3.99

Swingin Sammy Monkey Sounds Toothbrush, $5.99

Once Bitten Toothbrush Holder, $9.99

Oral-B Flossers, $2.49

Justin Bieber Singing Toothbrush, $9.99

Something's Fishy Toothbrush Holder, $15.79






























How do you get your children to brush their teeth? Share your tips!

Undercover Diaper Bags for Chic Mamas

If you prefer a baby bag that doesn’t look like it’s full of diapers, wipes and other rear end accoutrements, check out these stylish diaper bags we’ve pulled together. And the best part. . . there’s a little something for every price point!

JJ Cole Canvas Satchel, $59.49

MARC by Marc Jacobs, Pretty Eliza Baby Bag, $298

Skip Hop, Versa Diaper Bag, $70

Carter's Green Fashion Tote, $49.99

timi and leslie, Annette Convertible Satchel, $149.99

Glamajama Diaper Bag, $99.99

Nest Gray Bleeker Tote, $119.99

JP Lizzy Navy Mandarin Satchel, $60

Is “crying it out” inhumane?

I came across an article by Deborah Cruz on The Stir yesterday about how allowing your child to “cry it out” is ” inhumane,” and it really got my hackles up. Cruz opted for attachment parenting with her daughters, which is perfectly fine. But she crossed the line, in my opinion, when she launched an attack on every parent who chose a path different from her own. The operative word here is chose, because it is a choice and a deeply personal one at that.

I am not ashamed to admit that we allowed our daughter to “cry it out” when she was around 5 months old, following the Ferber method of slowly increasing the wait time before we went into her room until she was able to fall back asleep on her own. It was what worked for our family and for our daughter, the same way that attachment parenting is what works in Cruz’s family. To say that, because I made this particular choice, I must “believe that you can spoil a baby with too much love,” (clearly insinuating that I must not love my daughter enough) is just taking it too far.

Cruz says in her article that letting a baby “cry it out” is “a bit ridiculous and over kill [sic].” Well, I could say the same for attachment parenting—but I’m not. Because we need to stop judging each other for our parenting styles. There is more than one way to raise a child, and one style is not necessarily better than the next. What is best is what works for you and for your family.

I don’t usually use this blog to get on my soap box or preach, but can we please, please stop tearing each other down just to validate our own choices? Parenting is hard enough without the added pressure and guilt. Here’s an idea: why don’t we support each other and discuss our differences of opinion in a respectful and open-minded way? Perhaps this will be the best lesson we ever teach our children.

Is Your Child’s Speech Normal? What to Watch Out For

I am thrilled to welcome our very first guest blogger, Shannon! As one of my best friends and an expert in speech development (she holds a Master’s in Speech Pathology and works with both adults and children), Shannon was always my go-to when I had questions about Olivia’s language skills and development. When I asked her if she would be willing to share some of her tips and information with my readers, she was more than happy to! Here is the first of her two-part post about speech and language development in toddlers.

As a practicing speech-language pathologist and mother of a 14-month-old boy, I am often asked about typical language development from friends and family members.  Speech and language development is more complex and abstract than physical development and, therefore, harder for parents to track.  For example, it is obvious to  parents if their child is or is not walking, but it is not so obvious if their child’s language is normal.  This post will answer some basic questions about speech and language development. My next post will provide suggestions to allow you to facilitate speech and language development for your child.

What is considered normal language development? Speech and language development varies widely from one child to the next.  On average, a child’s first word will come around 12 months of age but may come later if the child is more interested in motor skills than speech and language.  Children either walk or talk first, and it is very rare that these skills coincide.  It is too much for the brain to process walking and talking simultaneously at the beginning.  If a child begins walking early or right around 12 months, he might not say his first word until 13 or 14 months.  Once children say their first word, language development should progress rapidly. Your child should have at least 50 words by age 2.  If your child does not have 50 words by her 2nd birthday, she is considered to have a language delay. Some children that are delayed in language will catch up independently.  Others may require formal speech-language intervention.

Why can’t I understand my child? It is often very difficult to understand a one-year-old’s speech. Many sounds in the English language do not develop until ages 2-5.  For example, /r/ and /th/ are sounds that develop later and should not be expected until at least age 4 or 5. Other later-developing sounds include /s/, /z/, and /l/.  It is very normal for a child who is learning to talk to simplify words and make sound substitutions or deletions.  For example, my son says “ight” for light and “doodie” for cookie. He is deleting the more difficult consonant (the /l/ in light) and substituting an easier consonant for a more difficult consonant (saying /d/ for /k/ in cookie).   If your child is 2 years old, an unfamiliar listener should be able to understand 50% of her speech.  An unfamiliar listener should be able to understand a 3-year-old child 75% of the time, and a 4-year-old should be understood greater than 90% of the time.

When should I be concerned?  A speech-language evaluation is recommended for the following issues:

  1. If you are concerned about your child’s ability to understand language.  Receptive language is very important and is a key indicator to determine if a child will catch up or need speech-language intervention.  If your child is not talking and you are concerned about their ability to understand you, it is recommended that you talk to your pediatrician.
  2. If your child is 18 months old and not yet talking.  Some children do not talk until after 18 months and catch up independently.  However, if your child is still not talking at 18 months of age, bring it up to your pediatrician to see if he needs a speech-language evaluation.
  3. If your child is 12 months old and is not yet babbling.
  4. If your child is age 2+ and is talking but is not forming phrases/sentences appropriately compared to her peers.
  5. If your child is age 2+ and you feel that he is significantly less intelligible than his peers or if many people comment that they cannot understand your child.  If you are the only person that can understand your child, talk to your pediatrician about the need for a speech-language evaluation.
  6. If there is any concern about social/pragmatic language.  Children must learn the social rules of language and how to interact with their peers appropriately. Learning the social rules of language develops over time.  Major red flags include lack of eye contact and inability to respond to and initiate greetings appropriately.
  7. If your child is stuttering.  Stuttering can be a normal part of speech-language development, particularly between ages 2 and 4.  However, if stuttering becomes effortful, frequent, or if your child is aware of and/or upset by their stuttering, then a speech-language evaluation is recommended.

What are some online resources to help?

Resources for parents include: 

The American Speech Language Association Public Website

National Institutes of Health

Kids Health

A Sweet, Storied Baby Shower

My friend, Lolly, is due with her first baby in May. So this weekend, we celebrated her and baby Sarah June (how cute is that name? don’t you just love it?!). The shower was held at the home of a friend in Charlottesville, VA, and the house itself would have been worthy of a blog post—the entire home looked like it was from the pages of a magazine (or one huge Pinterest pin), gorgeous! But back to the shower. The theme of the shower was “Sarah’s Story Begins,” and the feel was sweet vintage. Our hostesses, Amanda and Erin, did a fabulous job on the decorations and the food, from the hand-sewn circle garland to the mini TBM skewers. They managed to pull off a delicate girly shower with only the slightest hint of pink.








Garlic Lemon Kale Pasta

Another fantastic kale recipe, if I do say so myself! I was going to use the rest of our kale to make a raw kale salad, but I knew Olivia would never eat that, so I decided to see if the flavors from the salad would translate to a pasta, with a few extra ingredients. Even I was surprised at how delicious this was! I would recommend using a really good spaghetti for this recipe. I used De Cecco Organic Spaghetti No. 12, which, I think, is the best dry spaghetti—thick, chewy, and just perfect. Also, I list half a bunch of kale in the recipe because that is what I had to work with, but really, you could use however much or little you like.

Garlic Lemon Kale Pasta

1/2 bunch of kale, washed and de-stemmed

16 oz. spaghetti

10 oz. package grape tomatoes, halved

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 lemon, halved

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup red onion, finely diced

4 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste


Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the spaghetti as directed. Drain the pasta when it’s finished, and put it into a large bowl.

Once you have washed and removed the ribs from the kale, chop it into small strips. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Sauté the garlic and onions in the oil for just a few minutes, and then add the kale. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the kale is completely wilted. Add the kale to the pasta, along with the tomatoes, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese. Stir to mix well.

In the pan you just used to cook the kale, put your lemon cut sides down and allow to cook for about 5-10 minutes. (This isn’t a required step—you can just squeeze the lemon right onto the pasta if you prefer—but I’ve found that warming the lemon a bit beforehand really releases the flavor and makes it easier to juice.) When the cut sides of the lemon are lightly browned, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for  a minute before squeezing it over the pasta.

Drizzle the pasta with the remaining olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste before tossing to incorporate all of the flavors.