Monday, November 20, 2017

Preschooler Milestones and a Game That Helps Reach Them - Building Character Through PLAY!

I had the pleasure of attending the SoCal Moms Wellness Event last weekend at the beautiful Marion Davies Guesthouse on Santa Monica Beach. I was excited to bring my son to this one because not only was it a smaller enclosed event, but I knew there would be activities to keep him busy, and one of his good friends was also attending. I always love learning about new products for babies, but getting to meet creators of products for big kids that don't involve technology tend to really peak my interest.

Although my son, and most five year olds, can be very sweet, they still have a tendency to see the world through self-centered eyes. As much as we try to model empathetic behavior for our kids, we don't always see the results of this as quickly as we would like. At this age kids can notice what emotions others are going through and put names on those emotions. But when it requires a child to put another person's needs first, they don't always follow through with an empathetic act demonstrating true understanding of wanting to help another through a difficult time.

Enter Meghan DeRoma, Cofounder of Wannaplé and creator of the board game Silly Street. She had a simple toy was on display where the kids had to figure out how to swing a ring on a string to catch on a distant hook. As simple as it was, it held their attention for a very long time, almost as long as the LeapPad! While my son played, determined to win like his older friend already had, I had the pleasure of talking to Meghan DeRoma.
silly street
Not only is the board itself a big puzzle (big win for my puzzle loving kid) but the images and graphics on it are very eye catching.  The game pieces are wood circles with cute animal faces and the cards you draw to play with do not disappoint visually either.  This award-winning game inspires creativity, encourages healthy competition, promotes strong communication and rewards all around silliness.  In addition, it also helps promote empathy and social skills through the activities they have to complete on the game cards.  After my son finally caught the ring on the hook, he was overjoyed to be able to take the game home.  In fact, he even got an opportunity to try out the game on the spot with Meghan while I visited other vendors at the event.

We brought the game to a friend's house and my son, who normally has to always go first, offered to let his friend go first. And when my son didn't win a round, he didn't get upset. The friendly competition throughout the game really has improved his ability to work with others in a more positive manner.  When his friend was having difficulty completing a task on her card, my son was encouraging and tried to help her, even though that meant it would help her get closer to winning.

Although being able to read isn't necessary in order to play the game, encouraging my son to read the cards he draws in order to complete each task has been great for his sight word recognition as well as building his confidence. I love that some of the cards require the player to create a story about a character pictured on the card. Silly Street creates a fun environment where my son gets to demonstrate his ability to invent a story with a definite beginning, middle and end, including exposition, conflict and resolution has made this storytelling mama extremely proud.
Preschool Board Game
Overall, I highly recommend this game. As much as I love traditional board games from my childhood that help with counting, color and shape recognition, this game has a great balance of learning and fun. I am a huge advocate of play-based learning and this adorable board game fits in-line with those principles. After all, who doesn't love a friendly match of Rock Paper Scissors or a Thumb War now and then, especially after a visit from the tickle monster?  You can get your very own copy of Silly Street online at Target, Amazon, Toys R Us or Barnes and Noble this holiday season!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Why You Should Capture and Document Your Birth

Having the honor and privilege to be invited into my clients lives to capture one of their most intimate moments is an opportunity I do not take lightly.  During my own labor, my husband was able to film the entire process with a helmet cam and I know many times I looked up at that thing and wished it was not on.  I said some things that are now memorialized that I probably will not ever want my son to hear.  Labor gets uncomfortable, frustrating, disappointing, and sometimes ugly.  But ultimately it is triumphantly beautiful.  My own birth video does not have the best angles, the sound could be better, both my husband and I are never in it together, but what it does have that could never be replaced is the exact moment my son entered the world from my husband's point of view, gently being guided into this world in his daddy's hands: absolutely priceless.

Prior to becoming a mom, I was a professional filmmaker and freelance documentarian, filming a wide array of projects over the years. But once my son was born, I knew that if I was going to leave him in someone else's care, there had to be good justifiable reason to do so. That was when I redirected my focus to birth, newborn, and family videography, helping parents without the knowledge or equipment to professionally memorialize these moments that they can never get back.  I make it my mission to help others to understand why it is important to capture birth and share some of the best ways to do so.

Being able to edit others' birth videos, I realized even more how special that instant is when parents meet their child for the very first time.  Even the first moment after a C-section birth is nothing less than amazing.  Before our children are born,  we spend so much time thinking about what they will be like, who they will look like, how our family dynamic is going to change, what they'll be when they grow up...but all of those thoughts dissipate in that instant when we hear our baby cry or finally have our child in our arms, all we want to do is just be in that moment and experience a loving connection for the very first time. You will never be able to know what that moment looks like from the outside, unless it is captured on film. And being able to look back on photos or videos of that moment you will actually be able to relive that emotion again and again. Another amazing sentiment that needs to be captured is the triumph of completing the daunting marathon that is birth. Labor is no easy task on the body, so once it is completed, the rush of positive emotion that runs through the room is palpable for all and comes through in video and photos.

As important as it is to capture the moment baby joins the world, the hours of labor prior to the big event are definitely extremely special as well.  The breaks between the surges or contractions are filled with such emotion, both positive and negative.  The positive ones are important to capture in order to remember how strong a mother truly is. The negative ones are just as important because the final triumphant result is proof of how much a mother overcomes bringing a child into this world. Whether someone has taken a birth class or not, nothing can compare to actually experiencing labor. Preparation and practice does definitely help, there's no question about that. But how a woman gets through those difficult moments truly is a testament to how strong she really is. Being able to look back and see yourself hitting a wall but then pushing through it can inspire you long afterwards in many other facets of life. Capturing images of a mother in labor and her support team can be some of the most beautiful images to look back on.  A birth support team can provide such strength and motivation to a mother and those images will forever be a reminder of the love surrounding the day baby joined the world.

One of the easiest ways to capture and document your birth would be to hire a professional filmmaker and/or photographer. I am obviously partial to video because of my ability to capture words and sentiment in each moment, however some photos that birth photographers take need no caption to explain what is going on at that instant.  Another option is the hire a doula who can take photos and or video.  The downside to this is that the time she spends taking photos and or video will be time taken away from supporting you in your birth.  I definitely discourage having a birth partner capture these moments, unless they can do so passively like my husband did with a helmet cam Another option would be to have an additional friend or family member documenting, however as they are not a professional, they do not know what to expect and cannot always anticipate the moments you will want captured.  Finally, another option would be to set up a camera in the corner of the room and just let it record.  You may not end up with the best angle for a lot of the time, but at least you'll have something to remember the moment by.  Keep in mind that if you are having a hospital birth, you will have to get clearance to have someone else in the room filming and/or photographing prior to hiring someone. Different hospitals have different rules and you will need to respect them.

Professional photographers and videographers are an expected hire for milestone events, yet birth isn't usually considered one of them.  But what is more life altering and a greater milestone than bringing another life into this world?  The details of this once in a lifetime event will fade faster than you can imagine and there are no do-overs. It is so much better to have it and not watch it, than it will be to wish you had captured it after the fact.

Monday, November 6, 2017

More Stuff! (Part 2) -- Covering the LA Baby Show 2017

I had the pleasure of attending the LA Baby Show downtown at the Reef this weekend. Having attended last year as well, I can honestly say that this year did not disappoint. Not only did the organizers bring in more vendors, but they also had more speakers, demonstrations and an even better organized event, spread out over two floors, instead of one.

I got there early, and found out I wasn't the only early bird excited for the event to start. The line  started even before check in with anxious parents and parents-to-be.
I headed straight to the blogger lounge to take advantage of the awesome services offered there before snapping any selfies. I got my make-up done by @chicstudios, who also offer classes on how to do your own make-up. After a lovely conversation I shuffled to the next chair over so I could get my hair done by @petitemason. I learned that their West Hollywood salon keeps hours that give us moms no excuse to give ourselves a little pampering (open late and on weekends too!) Now that I was camera ready, I could take the beautiful @SilverCrossUSA luxury stroller for a spin.
Once on the showroom floor, I ran into brand reps, that I've grown to call friends, saw new products from companies I already know and love, and learned about new products that one could even consider a "must-have" despite saving everything from baby #1.

I already have a jogging stroller and an umbrella stroller, and never quite found the need to for a portable playpen. But after chatting with the friendly folks @SummerInfant, I realized that an outdoor secure play space may be very necessary with an active five year old that is not planning on slowing down any time soon. Theirs even has a SPF cover, which is great if you want to avoid re-applying sunscreen throughout the day. I also checked out their 3DTote Convenience stroller.  You have to check out the amount of storage on this light stroller. Although it's not officially an umbrella stroller, it does fold pretty small and store like one.  Not only does it avoid the dreaded constantly dirty canopy that drives me crazy with my current umbrella stroller every time I fold it, but it also has special hooks on the handle that can hold a EXTRA heavy diaper bag that doesn't make the stroller flip over every time your kid gets out of the seat. How smart is that? 
The extremely knowledgeable staff @diaperDekor introduced me to their new line of reuseable cloth pail liners for their already famous diaper pail. I used this pail with number one for disposable diapers, but once I switched to cloth, I had to have a separate hanging bag because they didn't fit right into the pail. Well now the problem is solved! It comes in a pack of two, which is perfect because while one is being washed with your soiled diapers, the other is in place for interim changes. Way to make it easy on us #clothdiaperparents. Their parent company, Regal Lager also has a line of @LovetoDreamUSA swaddles that come in three stages, the first of which allows babies to keep their arms up, similar to how they sleep in the womb. Genius, right? When my little guy first wriggled out of his swaddle, that was the exact position he was trying to get into. Their stage two has wings that zip off, allowing one or both arms to be free. Despite having a supply of swaddles already, I will definitely be adding an Organic Stage 1 Love to Dream swaddle to my collection.

Another really unique product I discovered is an adorable doll all the way from Iceland. It's called @Lulla_Doll and not only is it soft and snuggly without any sewn-on hazardous parts, it has a sound feature that mimics mom's heartbeat and breathing sounds to help baby fall back asleep. It runs for a full eight hours too! Fingers crossed I win their raffle for this adorable little guy, otherwise I will just have to get one shipped over across the Atlantic. Really ingenious idea!
There were so many other great items I found, but these were some of my favorites I just had to share right away. If you're a parent who has saved everything from your little one and think you have everything you need, you may just find you will want more stuff this time around, especially five years later!