Friday, September 28, 2012

A House Full of Boys

This is my 100th published post! Taking suggestions on how to celebrate!

Also, I'm very excited to announce that my book, The "Yes, It's Normal!" Guide to Breastfeeding is now available for purchase in paperback through Amazon for $9.99.

And now, onto the post!


Often, when I first meet someone and introduce my three boys, the question immediately following, "How old are they?" is, "Are you going to have another?" or "Are you going to try for a girl?" I wonder why this is. Are my baby-making plans up for public discussion? Why such intense interest in what should be an intimate process between my husband and me? I mean, sure, if I were already pregnant with another, asking if I'm hoping for a girl would be understandable, but to ask if we're "planning" to have another, or "trying" to have another? One person even went so far as to offer advice on how to increase our chances of conceiving a girl!

I don't know if the fact that we have three in relatively quick succession (26 months and 32 months apart) makes people assume that we're not planning to stop at three, or if the fact that they're all boys make people assume that we had a third because we were trying for a girl, or if the fact that we're still relatively young (and I apparently look younger than I am) makes people assume that we'll just keep on letting them come until they stop on their own. We have used birth control in the past, our kids were planned (yes, all three), and we didn't keep going because we were "hoping" for a girl.

Full disclosure, until the 20-week ultrasound with each of the three pregnancies, I was sure I was having a girl, and I admit to slight disappointment at first upon finding out they were boys. Well, with GI, it wasn't so much disappointment as genuine surprise and a bit of relief. At least, by then, I knew what to do with a boy and had all the requisite clothing and gear. I do want a daughter. I've always fantasized about raising a girl. On the other hand, now that I have boys, the idea of having a girl terrifies me, because it seems like girls are way harder to raise.

Though it isn't really anyone's business, my husband and I have always talked about having four kids. Now that we have three, a fourth seems inevitable. But as for when, well, isn't that kind of a personal question? Do you need to know whether I'm using birth control or what kind? Do you need to know how often we're "doing the BD," as they say in trying-to-conceive parlance? Do you need to know if we've yet had success? I don't really think so. I promise, when and if I get pregnant, you will know about it as soon as it's appropriate to say so. Or until I can't hide it.

As for "are you going to try for a girl?", that isn't exactly fair to my boys, is it? There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not grateful to have my boys. I've never once wished that any of them was a girl. I've never tried to imagine how life would be different if we had a girl or two or three. In fact, in some ways, I feel like the fact that we've been blessed with boys is a sort of tap on the shoulder from G-d. "You are meant to mother boys," He tells me. "You will raise your sons to be men who respect women, love Judaism, and be sensitive and gentle fathers." They have their father as an excellent example of what a man should be and how a man should act. They have both of us to teach them to love Judaism and want a Jewish home when they grow up. If we end up as a house with four sons, then at least by now I know what to do with a boy. And if I've proven myself a worthy mother of boys and G-d chooses to bless us with a daughter, I will be even more grateful for her, and she will be lucky to have three older brothers to protect her. What could be better than that? And what mother could be luckier than I, that one day I could potentially have four excellent daughters-in-law, to love and cherish and to bring her beautiful grandchildren?

When confronted, then, with the questions, "Are you going to have more?" and, "Are you trying for a girl?", I really don't know what to say, except, "We'll see what happens," and "It's not up to me." Because it isn't. Not really.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What If We Could Have Honest Conversations about Birth with Our Care Providers?

Imagine if, at a regular prenatal appointment, your midwife or OB said to you, "Let's talk about your birth options." Imagine that she or he went on to ask you what you would like to know about giving birth, what you already know, and if you have any particular ideas or plan as for how you'd like to give birth. Imagine if, taking it a step farther, she or he then gave you information such as the following:

"If you would like to avoid a cesarean section, stay home as long as possible once you think you are in labor. The sooner you come into the hospital, the more likely your labor will be augmented with Pitocin, and the more likely you are to end up with a c-section."
"As long as your pregnancy is otherwise healthy and normal, we will not induce you without your express consent. Induction before the body and baby are ready to be born increases the chances of complications, negative outcomes, cesarean section, premature birth, and birth trauma."
"If you would like to discuss the possibility of a scheduled cesarean section, let me first tell you about the risks of doing so, both to you and to your baby. We can then discuss whether the benefits outweigh the risks."
"Unless medically indicated, we do not induce or deliver surgically any baby before, at minimum, 39 weeks' gestation."

And so on.

The point is, women are expected to do research for themselves in order to make informed decisions about childbirth. What's surprising, I suppose, is that more women don't inform themselves. (I didn't, with my first pregnancy.) If I were going in for just about any medical procedure, I would probably be scouring the internet for information about that procedure before agreeing to it. But childbirth? It's natural. The body knows what to do. The nurses and doctors know how it should go. Why do I need to research?

But it's this very problem, that many women (and their partners!) don't know that there's anything to know, that can be rectified by the care providers we trust to deliver our babies. Give us a fact sheet on various birth methods. Discuss risks and benefits. Give us strategies to cope with labor pain, to decide when to come in, to manage our labor process. Help us understand what Pitocin is and what it's for and how to refuse it if we don't think we need it. Talk about induction and scheduled c-section with us, realistically.

When I was pregnant with my second, I had a doctor tell me that babies delivered at 39 weeks via scheduled c-section, 99% of the time, don't have lung issues. She was busy trying to convince me to schedule a c-section, because I was still wavering on whether to attempt a VBAC. What she didn't bother to tell me is about all the risks associated with repeat cesarean sections, such as placenta accreta in future pregnancies, infection, "imposter babies" (those babies who appear to be full term but still aren't quite ready to face the world), etc. (See my post about c-sections for more information.) A second doctor, whom I saw later in the pregnancy, did tell me some of these things, and also told me I was a very good candidate for VBAC and that there wasn't any reason not to try. Obviously, he was right!

Let's move on to the hospital setting. Imagine showing up a little too early, say, at 3cm, and being told, "You should really just go home. It will be a while, and if you stay here, we may end up trying to speed things along, which will increase your chances of complications and possible c-section." Or, perhaps they would say, "Feel free to stick around, but it's still quite early and could be hours or even a day or more before your baby is ready to come. Would you like to speak with a member of our birth support team or a doula on duty to help you cope with these contractions without medication?" (Wouldn't it be amazing if hospitals employed staff doulas to provide labor support?!)

But what if a woman comes in and just wants her pregnancy over with, if she's swollen and in pain and past her due date and horribly uncomfortable and just can't be pregnant another day, and she has called her doctor and requested an induction? Shouldn't her doctor at least discuss the risks of induction? Shouldn't she know that her chances of complications and c-section are dramatically higher than if she waits to go into labor on her own? She shouldn't be "bullied" into waiting any more than she should be bullied into a procedure such as induction or c-section, but she should make the decision fully informed.

A woman isn't "wrong" or "bad" for choosing an elective induction or c-section. A doctor isn't "wrong" or "bad" for suggesting one, especially if a woman is really suffering in her last days of pregnancy. (And, of course, medically-indicated inductions and c-sections save lives.) My concern is that many women show up at the hospital in early labor, sure they'll be holding their baby in their arms in the next few hours, and, 18 hours later, they're under the operating room lights, scared out of their wits, undergoing an emergency c-section because the Pitocin caused fetal distress. Was she fully informed that this was a strong possibility when she decided to come into the hospital?

There's room for change, here. We can work from the bottom up, educating women one at a time about their birth options, which is, in part, what this blog is about. But we can also work from the top down. Hospitals, doctors, midwives, and other care providers throughout pregnancy can help to educate and inform their patients. Indeed, these care providers themselves may need to be more educated and informed about the latest research, evidenced-based care practices, and ways to improve maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity. Working from all directions to improve birth outcomes - at the hospital administration level, at the care provider level, and with each individual laboring woman - will create a culture of birth that is more powerful, more open, and safer for all involved.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Car Seat Rule #1: How To Use That Chest Clip

In my car seat posts, I tend to lump all the car seat rules I can think of all in a big list, which I think maybe doesn't have much impact anymore. It becomes white noise. So what I thought I'd do is do an every-so-often series of posts about various individual aspects of proper car seat use and go into more detail about why that particular rule applies.

This first post addresses the infamous chest clip! What is that thing for, and how should it be used?

The chest clip is found on most rear- and forward-facing car seats with a five-point harness. You have the shoulder straps, which come over the shoulders, and the crotch strap, which comes up between the legs. The shoulder straps have tabs which fit into the buckle on the crotch strap. Then there's another plastic clip that connects the two shoulder straps. That is the chest clip, and of all the things I see people do wrong with car seats, misuse of the chest clip is just about at the top of the list. Even people who are very safety-conscious, keep their kids rear-facing longer, in a harness longer, in the best seats, often incorrectly place or use the chest clip.

The most egregious chest clip misuse I've personally heard of is parents who think using only the chest clip is sufficient. They have their preschoolers in a five-point harness, except that they don't. They secure the chest clip but leave the tabs out of the buckle. This does nothing to secure the child in an accident, and is actually less safe than putting the child in a booster and buckling the seat belt. Using the chest clip alone is basically as good as not buckling the child at all.

Here's why:
This thread from, answered by certified car seat technicians, explains that the chest clip is not meant to restrain the child in a crash. Indeed, it is often designed to break away in a crash. Thus, if you buckle your child with only the chest clip, and the chest clips breaks upon impact in a crash, your child will be ejected from his seat. Why bother having a car seat at all?

Chest clips are actually meant to be pre-crash positioners, ensuring that the shoulder straps are in the right place so they can do their job in a crash. If the chest clip is in the wrong place, it won't do its job of keeping the shoulder straps in place, and the straps could slip off the child's shoulders in a crash. Also, since it is designed to crack against the child's sternum, which is a very strong bone, if it is in the wrong place, it could cause damage to the child's soft tissue.

In Europe, chest clips are not used, but car seats are designed differently to accommodate this difference. If your car seat has a chest clip, you must use it, and you must use it properly.

So... how do I use the chest clip?

Well, it's simple. Buckle your child in, fasten the chest clip, tighten the harness if necessary, and then position the chest clip at the level of the child's armpits or nipples. From tiny babies to big seven-year-olds, rear-facing or front-facing, the chest clip always goes at the level of the armpits or nipples. Not higher (can damage the child's windpipe), and not lower (doesn't do its job).

What do I do if my child moves the chest clip?

Discipline and education, mostly. Use whatever works for your child. My kids respond well to safety lectures. "It's very dangerous if you move that chest clip. I put it where it was for a reason!" Other kids need reinforcement along the lines of punishment or rewards. Consistency is key, of course, as with any discipline issue.


Again, the chest clip should be fastened and positioned in line with the child's armpits. This properly positions the shoulder straps and helps prevent the child from slipping his arms out of the straps. It is not meant to withstand crash forces and should not be used without the buckle!

Friday, September 14, 2012

ALWAYS Buckle Your Child Correctly

It's confession time: Even car seat fanatics make mistakes. I told you about GI's mysteriously unbuckled seat belt a few weeks ago, but I have a worse one for you. What if I told you I once drove all the way home with SB totally unbuckled in his infant carrier?

There's a lesson here, folks, so listen up.

When SB was a teeny-tiny baby, I was home alone all day with him. To entertain myself, I used to go out with him to lunch, Starbucks, frozen yogurt, whatever, just to see the sunlight. I had a Snap 'n' Go frame, and I'd plop his car seat carrier into the frame and do whatever I felt like doing. This particular day, I decided to have some Chinese food. At some point during my meal, SB wanted to nurse, so I took him out of the car seat and nursed him, then put him back in. I didn't buckle him, figuring I'd remember to later. The air conditioning in the restaurant was cold, and I threw a blanket over SB so he would be comfortable.

When I finished my meal, I took SB for a nice walk around the shopping center, then got in the car and went home. I took the car seat out of the car and carried it into the house. And when I took the blanket off SB to take him out of the car seat, there he was, happily unbuckled the entire time. I had not remembered to buckle him!

The lesson here is, always buckle your baby into the car seat correctly. Immediately. Always always always. New moms, especially, are sleep-deprived. We can't rely on our memories. We're on autopilot half the time. Especially with those awfully-convenient car seat carriers, it's too easy to plop it into the car, take it out and plop it into the stroller or frame, then plop it back into the car. While we should be holding our babies whenever possible, it's too easy, also, to take the baby out to tend to him, then set him back down in the car seat and forget or delay buckling.

It was terrifying when it happened to me. What if that was the one time I was in a car accident, a mile from home? Or, what if he had fallen out while I was carrying the car seat from the car to the house? Or what if the stroller frame had tipped or run off the edge of the curb while he was in it? So many things could have happened that could have caused him to be seriously hurt, just because I thought I would buckle him later. Thank G-d, THANK G-D, nothing happened. He was fine. I was fine. But I learned my lesson, and I'm just grateful I didn't have to learn it the hard way. I'm thankful SB didn't have to pay any price for my negligence.

I'm nosy when it comes to car seats (and babies), and I tend to glance into every car seat carrier I see, both to get a glimpse of a cute baby and to see how that cute baby is buckled. More often than not, the baby is not buckled correctly. Indeed, it is so rare that I see a correctly-buckled car seat that I comment ecstatically every time I see one. Sometimes, I decide to give the parents the benefit of the doubt, that maybe they loosened the straps for the baby's comfort while they're out of the car and they'll re-tighten when they get back in the car. Or maybe they had to take the baby out to tend her and didn't finish the buckling process when they put her back in. But, I'm sure that most of the time, the baby went from car to stroller or shopping cart and will go back into the car without any change in buckling status.

I don't say anything. First of all, despite my knowledge, I am not a certified expert, so I'd just be coming from a place of mom-to-parent advice. Occasionally, I've been in a situation where I feel comfortable saying something, and the reaction is usually, "Oh, thank you for telling me. I had no idea!" But these were not perfect strangers. So, I write this blog, because I want parents to understand how to correctly use their car seats, and, more than that, why they should correctly use their car seats. Look, we can't keep our kids 100% safe 100% of the time. Just being in the car on the road has risks. But aren't we always in the business of reducing risk whenever or however we can? Most of us don't intentionally expose our kids to danger, and, if we do, it's usually in a controlled circumstance, such as teaching them to swim or hunt or climb a jungle gym. I would hate to see a baby get hurt because her parents didn't know to pull that little strap and tighten up her car seat harness. Something so simple shouldn't be neglected.

By the way, a pet peeve of mine is car seats propped on top of shopping carts - this is dangerous. Car seats were not meant to fit with carts. There is no strap to hold them on, and they don't sit on there snugly. The cart can tip, or the car seat can fall if the cart is bumped, and the baby can be injured - especially if they aren't buckled! You make the decision yourself if you want to perch the car seat like that, but I always prefer to put the car seat into the basket of the cart for safety, or wear the baby on my body so I can put groceries in the cart.

Monday, September 10, 2012

War Games

I have boys. I have come to the conclusion that boys are born knowing how to make car sounds and gun noises and how to pretend to fly an airplane. My kids watch tame shows like "Dragontales" and "Arthur" (aside from "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heros," which I regret introducing them to), don't play video games really, and yet they've been playing "war". It's an odd sort of war, wherein whenever they want to change or fix their Duplo guns, NJ yells, "Pause war!", they do whatever they need to do with their Duplo creations, and then NJ yells, "Unpause war!" and they go back to "shooting" with their Duplo guns and making the "Ttttttt" noise of a machine gun.

There are things about these war games that I like. One is that they are playing an imaginative(-ish) game without the need for the TV screen. Another is that they are building with Duplos, of which we have seven million, and which are safe for the baby if they're left around the living room...which they are. I'm even kind of impressed with the "guns" they build.

But I mostly really don't like these games. SB completely doesn't understand what he's doing, doesn't have a sense of what it means to "kill" someone, doesn't get that war is not something to laugh about. He's three and a half. But NJ is on this weird cusp between understanding what death is without a concept that shooting someone with a gun will kill them. He doesn't, though, understand what war really is, and I'd really like to keep them sheltered as long as possible. There are enough worries in this world that they'll have to take on eventually. Let kids be kids.

I realize that generations upon generations of boys (and girls) have played shoot-out games - Cowboys and Indians, Cops and Robbers - and that someone is always the "bad guy," and you go outside with your cap guns and run around in the backyard "shooting" each other and having a grand old time. And most of those people are not violent when they grow up (like, say, my mother). But somehow it still feels wrong to me to "play war." Maybe it's because they lack that very understanding of what the game is about. They're playing at something without knowing what they're pretending to do. It would be like pretending to cook without ever having seen someone do so, or pretending to work a cash register without having ever been to a store. It's a game without reference.

It's good that my boys haven't had to be exposed to war. I'd like them to be able to maintain that innocence. We are a country at war, but thanks to our volunteer military, my boys don't have to worry about their Daddy (or Mommy) going overseas. But some of their friends do. Somehow, playing at war feels like they wish it were something they knew more about, when I hope for them that they never have to find out. Certainly, boys are interested in fighter planes and helicopters, guns and bombs, tanks, jeeps, and the great naval ships. Heck, I'm interested in them, too. But there's a difference between an academic interest in war paraphernalia and machinery and building it out of Duplos and throwing Duplos at each other when they drop a "bomb." (Also, it hurts to get hit with a Duplo.)

What I'm beginning to understand is that as much as I try to protect my boys from the world at large, they're going to learn about it. They learn about it from other kids at the park or at school or at synagogue. They learn about it tangentially from conversations between their parents, or video games their dad plays. They learn about it at Starbucks, when they ask why we would buy a pound of coffee for "the troops." They'll learn about it if one of their friend's moms or dads is deployed and the friend mentions it. War is out there, all around us, especially living here, near the largest Marine base in the country.

This means that it's my job, rather than to protect them from knowledge, to make sure they have the correct knowledge. And that applies to more than just guns and airplanes, of course. Since they're sure to learn about the world from other people, I have to make sure that they have accurate information. So when they play their war games, I tell them to never point even a Duplo gun directly at another person. I ask that they play as allies and fight monsters or imaginary bad guys, rather than each other. If they want to learn about fighter planes, we find information on the internet or watch a documentary about flight. If they want to know more about guns, one day, we can teach them. Perhaps we can even take them to a firing range when they're old enough (there's one just a few miles from us) to teach them to respect weapons and understand their use. And if they are playing war with their friends, hey, at least they're running around and getting some exercise, and hopefully some of the lessons we've taught them will stick.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Happy Birthday, GI!

Dear GI,

Happy birthday, my dear one. I have many names for you, but you know I'm being especially affectionate when I call you my Yummy. Because you are so, so yummy. You're chubby in all the right places. You have cheeks like pillows that you press against my face when you hug me. You like the silliest games, like gently tapping your forehead against mine so I'll say "Bonk!"

You're funny and easily amused and you're already showing signs of some serious toddlerhood about to burst forth. When you want something, you want it, and you know just how to shriek so I'll give it to you just to make you stop screaming. You want to be like your big brothers, and you want to torment them, and you want them to show you all the things you need to know about being a big boy. You chase them around and delight in being chased. You toddle happily along behind them and cry piteously when they disappear into a room you're not allowed into.

You're nosy. You have to know what's in the refrigerator, the pantry, my closet, the laundry room. You peer into boxes with the curiosity of a kitten (and about as much caution). You love to look out the window behind my bed, and you still forget to make sure you can sit safely before plunking your little tush down wherever you are.

You like socks. Thank you so much for bringing me a sock the other morning in the shower. A wet sock is just the thing for a hot day!

You like your brother's pajamas. I'm so happy I had a matching set for you to wear, so you could be just like him. Your smile of joy when I found them in your drawer was surely a Kodak moment.

You're fearless, and yet you always make sure I'm around. You're adventurous, but you won't go too far without me. You're mischievous and playful. You drop things just so you can say, "Uh-oh!", but you have such pride in your eyes that you have a word to say!

You insist on using a fork, just like Mommy and Daddy and your brothers. You insist on eating whatever I'm eating. You know when we're sitting down for a meal and toddle over to your chair to join us. You've figured out where my boobs are and have started making it clear in no uncertain terms when you want to nurse. That, by the way, needs to stop, my lovely one. I've been trying to teach you a sign to make when you're hungry. Feel free to try that.

I loved watching you learn to walk. You're so determined. You decide to learn something, and every day you work on it and work on it until you've mastered it. You're already choosing walking over crawling, no matter how many times you fall on the way. Keep that determination, that tenaciousness. It will serve you well in life.

You only have four teeth, but you use them to great effect. I appreciate when you remember to open your mouth before pulling away from me while nursing. You still nurse at least four times a day and countless times a night (or so it feels). I wouldn't mind seeing you sleep better, but at least your naps are reasonably predictable.

I can't wait to see how much you've grown, my big, squooshy one. You're well over 20 pounds, but I don't think you'll match your biggest brother's incredible size. Still, you're no lightweight! You like to be held, but sometimes my arms are just too tired, sweet boy. I'm so glad you can walk, now, so I can put you down. You were so cute wandering around at the bank.

I think my heart is most warmed by watching your brothers interact with you. NJ, your biggest brother, is so good to you. So nurturing. He helps you, plays with you, carries you (even though I tell him not to!). He's the care-giving one, the protector. SB wants you to be a playmate, but he doesn't understand that you're still too little. He's so happy to see you growing, becoming more interesting and interested in him. You give as good as you get with him, horseplay and all. And he loves your toys. You're too young to understand sharing, but when you've had your fill of a toy, you're content to let him play. You may be too young to understand sharing, but you're also to young to understand MINE. That won't last!

I look forward to seeing what kind of little person you become during the next year and beyond. You're the third child, so you'll have to have a lot of personality to shine from behind your brothers. Somehow, I don't think I have to worry about you. I can already tell you're bright and stubborn. You'll need both to keep up!

Enjoy your day, my funny little guy. You're one now. The world is yours for the taking!


Monday, September 3, 2012

How to Baby-Proof, or You Can't Baby-Proof a Three-Year-Old

You would think baby-proofing would get easier the more kids you have, because you already know what needs doing. You would be wrong. It's harder. Much harder.

When you have your first baby, and that first baby shows signs of crawling and exploring and putting everything in his mouth and pushing the buttons on the Xbox and stealing things out of your pantry and flushing things down the toilet, you go around and remove or prevent access to anything he shouldn't have. You might start off with a few baby gates, some closed doors, and a Play Yard fence. A few cabinet locks in the kitchen, some silicone doohickies to protect his (extremely hard) head from the (pointy) coffee table corners, and make sure you don't leave any pennies on the floor.

When NJ became a mobile baby, this was pretty much what we had. Our floorplan was such that there were two doorways to the kitchen, which meant we could simply put a pressure gate on each side to keep him out and safe from hot splattering oil. We put a gate at the top and bottom of the stairs. We put a fence around the TV and the cat litter boxes. And we kept the bathroom doors closed until he figured out (and could reach) the doorknobs. Then we got covers for the doorknobs. Then he actually needed to be able to get into the bathrooms but was old enough to know not to play in the toilet or unroll the toilet paper, so we took the thingies off the doorknobs and opened the bathroom doors.

And then SB was born. Since NJ was only two when SB was born, a lot of the house was still baby-proofed - gates were still up, cupboards were still locked, and NJ didn't have any toys that weren't for the under-three crowd (like, say, Legos). And he wasn't interested in money, so there weren't random coins lying around.

We moved into a new house when SB was almost two, and by then we didn't need anything baby-proofed, because four-year-old NJ and two-year-old SB were smart enough not to kill themselves. We may have had a few outlet covers, but nothing else. Nothing. And then NJ and SB got things like Legos and money.

And then we had GI.

For six months, GI was a stationary, lump-like being who was easy to keep safe. And then one day he figured out how to crawl and get all up in his brothers' business.

And then he fell down the stairs. Well, four steps, and they're carpeted, but it still scared me. A lot.

So we put a gate at the top of the stairs. And we had been practicing with NJ and SB for months not to play with Legos in the living room. When we moved in, we made the garage into a playroom for them, not that they play in there very often, and I made a rule when GI was about four months old that they could only play with Legos in the garage. We would make the garage their place, and GI wouldn't be allowed to go in there, and thus he would be safe from their big boy toys.

Only, they don't play in the garage. And lots of interesting choking hazards make their way into the living room. Like, for example, when GI found a bit of a popped balloon. Sigh.

And they have to remember to close the gate at the top of the stairs, but only if GI is upstairs and free, because the cats can't jump the gate (well, one of them can't), and their food and water and litter boxes are in the spare bedroom. Oh yeah, and don't forget to close the spare bedroom door when GI is upstairs and free, because litter boxes ≠ sand boxes, and cat food should really stay in the bowls, not be scattered all over the floor. But don't forget to open it again when he's no longer free to get in there or the cats won't be able to eat or poo. And keep the bathroom doors closed! I hate finding half the toilet paper unrolled, or, worse, GI happily splashing in the toilet.

And the kitchen. He LOVES the kitchen. And if we gate the kitchen, we can't open one of the cupboards, and the older boys can't get to the garage (which is accessible only through the kitchen). I must have had a burst of inspiration when I put the kids' plastic bowls and plates and cups in a bottom drawer near the sink, because GI has a blast opening up that drawer and taking everything out. At least it's safe stuff! We did have to put a child lock on the pantry, because he kept finding glass bottles to bang against the tile floor. But then SB couldn't open the pantry to get to his snacks at snack time. This is the catch-22 of baby-proofing, when you want to keep the baby out but not the preschooler!

And don't forget to close the bathroom door!

And pick up that penny.

And throw away your string cheese wrapper.

Don't you want to play with your Legos? In the garage.

I do have an excellent piece of baby-proofing advice, though, so this post doesn't become a total waste. Follow the baby's lead. See what he finds interesting, decide if it can be made safe, must be made off limits, or is perfectly fine, and adjust accordingly. I personally don't mind if he pulls the DVDs off the shelf, but if you do, move them up to a shelf he can't reach, or put a fence or gate in front of them. We decided we really didn't want him banging on the TV screen (really? Why not?), so I put a Play Yard fence in front of the TV. I hate this fence with a passion, but it protects both GI and the TV. And it's definitely better for things to be out of sight than just out of reach, because a frustrated baby will (a) scream a lot because he wants it, and (b) will probably try to find a way to get to it.

And then, suddenly, they're not babies anymore, and you can take the gates down.