Tuesday, December 07, 2010

All Things Sunny

As we move into summertime here in Australia I've realized that I need to seriously consider the precautions we'll take to protect Riker from the downright vicious sun we're exposed to on a daily basis. So with that in mind I set out to find the best hats, sunglasses and sunblocks out there for children. Hats and sunglasses were fairly easy. I was looking for a hat with a very wide brim and a chin strap and sunglasses with complete UV protection and a strap to keep them on a toddler's head. I ended up purchasing the Sunday Afternoon Kid's Play Hat available in Australia here. For sunglasses I went with Baby Banz Adventure Banz and here's the wee one kindly modeling them:

Now sunblock turned out to be a bit trickier. First of all I learned that octyl methoxycinnamate (the first ingredient in all of the sunblocks on my shelf) is fairly toxic stuff, possibly carcinogenic and a known endocrine disruptor. Great. So sunblocks that use chemical means of blocking sunlight could have some serious side effects which led me to consider what other types of sunblock are out there, other than the pure white zinc creams used on the noses of lifeguards. Turns out that there are sunscreens which use very tiny particles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These provide a physical barrier to the sun but don't leave your skin white. But don't run out to the store just yet because it turns out that these products often use nanoparticles which have been shown to produce free radicals and to damage DNA, especially when exposed to UV light! So the bottom line is that for both children and adults, it is best to use a non-nano zinc based sunscreen (which several sources suggest is safer than titanium). The good news is that there are lots to choose from; you just have to know what you want before you go to the store or order online because companies don't have to label the use of nanoparticles. So for those of you in Australia, see the very informative Friends of the Earth Safe Sunscreen Guide Summer 2010/11. You might also be interested in the Environmental Working Group's Sunscreen Guide, an excellent resource which gives each sunscreen a score and discusses safety concerns of every ingredient in a product. Not all of these sunscreens are available in Australia and they don't seem to list the use of nanoparticles so you need to compare with the ones on the Safe Sunscreen Guide.

So what did I end up buying you ask? I couldn't decide so I bought two different types. Natural Instinct for us and WotNot for Riker. I'd review them for you as well, but all of my sun related research has yielded nothing but rain, rain and more rain!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Almost walking....

A few new photos from some outdoor playtime last week:

In just the past few days he's started to take some wobbly but independent steps. Today he stood up behind his toy push truck and just started walking around the house. Conveniently on my birthday so I can remember the occasion for years to come :) Last year on my birthday he slept for five hours straight for the first time. We ordered pizza and watched a movie. Today we ordered Indian and watched it rain. Below are two videos of him walking behind his truck and then his highchair. Watch for similar endings to both.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Grandma Betty's Grand Adventure

I have always said that there was no way that my mom would ever come to Australia for a visit. She hates to travel and had never flown. A few months ago we were starting to think about a visit home but were dreading the twenty four hours of travel with a very active little one. Brian convinced me to ask one more time whether she'd like to come here and what it would take to get her here. To my surprise, she said that if she didn't have to travel alone she might consider it. Consider it she did and I think she even got a little excited about the prospect and before we knew it we were booking flights for her and her friend, Pat.

Here, Pat and my mom in the Botanic Gardens:

With grandma and her grandson atop Mt. Ainslie:

A weekend on the coast at Guerrilla Bay:

Plenty of time hanging out at home:

My favorite photo, just before saying farewell:

We did lots of shopping, went whale watching, saw the National Museum, baked cookies, went to my mother's group, saw kangaroos, ate kangaroo, had lunch at all my favorite cafes, visited my coworkers, went to our favorite winery and much more. Lots of firsts for Grandma Betty! I'm so proud of her for making the journey and we had such a wonderful time! More photos on my Facebook page here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Adventures in Animal Husbandry

Brian has been wanting chickens for ages. And rabbits and a cow. But, for the time being, he's acquired just the chickens. Six of them. You may remember reading about our weekend with an escapee chicken from the Lyneham High School some time ago. When he returned the chick they told him that at the end of each year the school sells off their chickens when they are just starting to lay. So when the end of the term came around they emailed Brian and gave him first dibs on buying the chickens before they put out the for-sale sign. The prospect of such an easy way to acquire chickens was just too tempting for Brian and last weekend he set to work building a pen for them. The result is the beautiful creation you see below, made (at zero cost) entirely from scavenged materials (including two broken down old wardrobes from the garage) and using only three tools, a Leatherman, a bike multi-tool and a screwdriver. Note the ramp up to the bedroom where the wardrobe doors open to the outside allowing easy access for egg collection. On the left side is the kitchen.

On Monday morning, we went over to the school to collect our chickens and introduce them to their new home.

The project for this weekend has been building a mobile pen for them so that we can let them out to nibble on juicy grass and scrounge for worms around the yard. (Kristi, you'll be pleased to know that this structure was built using only grapevines, bamboo, duct tape and chicken wire).

So far, we've collected 70 eggs in 15 days and have calculated that with the cost of straw, feed and chickens that we will break even after week 14 compared to store-bought free-range eggs.

It's so wonderful that spring is finally here and we're able to spend some time outdoors every day! Some blooms in our backyard:

The chickens and the arrival of spring have motivated us to get our worm farms back up and running and to start our veggie gardens again. Here are my boys looking adorable while hard at work preparing the beds:

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I've finally mustered the energy to get the few photos I've managed to take in the last month or so online. There are three public folders of Riker and friends on Facebook that you might like to see: Riker Month Nine, Riker Month Ten and Dickson Mum's Group (courtesy of Alison). Here are some highlights:

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sleep No, Photos Yes

We're in a rough patch as far as sleep goes these days, presumably because Riker is experiencing a whole slew of developmental milestones and is, we noticed this morning, working on his third tooth. So I'm too tired to write much these days, but I'm trying to keep up with cute photos at the very least.

Here we are after a visit to Tilley's with my mother's group:

Looking like a little boy isn't he?

And at another mother's group outing, Riker crawled over and sat on Liam's lap, after which they proceeded to "love" this book of nursery rhymes together:

All together now....awwwwwwww.......

Thanks to Liz for the photos of Riker and Liam.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Leaps and Bounds

I can hardly believe all of the things that have been happening in the last few weeks! All through month seven, Riker had been practicing getting up on all fours and then on his eight month birthday, he just took off crawling for a ball he saw across the room. That was two weeks ago and now he is easily pulling himself to standing using whatever happens to be available (the coffee table, my hair, etc.) Now he's starting to seem more like a toddler than a baby. And at 11.2 kilos (24 lbs 11 oz) he's the weight of an average 15 month old!

The downside to all of these awesome developmental milestones is that he can't seem to stop practicing his antics at all hours of the day and night. Riker had been sleeping through the night from eight weeks but for the last month and a half he's been waking himself up every couple hours by rolling over and getting up on his hands and knees. Last night we found him standing up in his crib, whimpering and nearly asleep. He doesn't really want to be awake but it means we're all up several times a night trying to settle him back to sleep. Yawn.

But the cuteness just keeps on going - thank goodness!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rupert Tallulah McChicken

The other day I returned home from a solo shopping mission to find Brian breathlessly entering the yard, wearing the baby in a sling, gingerly holding a cardboard box, saying "you'll never guess what happened!" Now what mischief could these two have gotten up to in the short time I was away, I wondered. Turns out that while out on a walk, Brian spotted a young chicken running free out behind our back gate. Being fairly certain that it was an escapee from the Lyneham High School, he thought he'd better try to catch it and care for it over the weekend, thus saving it from certain death at the paws of a four legged creature. Imagine if you will, Brian chasing a chick up and down a hedge while using a stick to attempt to direct the chicken out into the open where he eventually caught it with his hands, all while wearing a (probably somewhat amused) baby on his chest.

Now that the chicken was captured we faced the questions of where to keep it and what to feed it. Brian, clever chap that he is, found that a spare Pack'n'Play port-a-cot placed in the kitchen was an ideal temporary chicken coop. After a heater was set up near the pen to keep our feathered friend warm and a bowl of water and one of dry baby rice cereal placed inside, we turned to Google to determine how old our chick was, what we really should be feeding it and whether it was a boy or a girl. We decided it was somewhere around 4-6 weeks old and found that coarsely ground grains would be the best food. So we put some rice, lentils and polenta through the coffee grinder and added that to his bowl. Deciding whether it was male or female took quite a bit of research and in the meantime we covered our bases by giving it two names, Rupert Tallulah from the clan McChicken, of course. Turns out that it's really difficult to discern the gender of most chicks except that ours, an Isa Brown, is a sex linked chicken where the girls are brown and the boys are white. Tallulah it was.

Come Monday, Brian was having second thoughts about returning his new friend to the high school. He and the chick had become good buddies - it would chirp when he entered the room and continue to chirp until he held it, fly up out of the pen into his hands, fly or walk towards him whenever given the chance and fall asleep curled up in his arms. Very sweet. In the end however, we realized that Tallulah belonged with her flock as chickens are very social animals (and that the folks at the high school would probably notice one of their chickens living in our backyard - ha!).

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Now sitting up on his own for extended periods:

Getting himself into some interesting places by scooting and crawling backwards:

My little yogi:

A new trick - a few seconds of standing on his own!

Beans, Yum!

Riker had his first taste of solid food at six months. So far the menu has included mashed sweet potatoes, pumpkin, rice cereal, banana, apple, pear and avocado, but he hasn't really embraced the concept of eating food. On a good day, he tolerates it for a bite or two, but never eagerly opens his mouth for more. On other days he make the funniest faces and spits it all out. I'm wondering if maybe he'll be one of those kids who only likes to eat if he can feed himself. He is certainly interested in what we are eating and drinking however. So the other night at dinner we handed him a green bean and he gummed it for ages - long enough to let us enjoy our entire meal! Brian captured this great face:

And in other exciting news, he now has two teeth, both of which came in on the same day. Ouch!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Cael is Two!

Today my sweet nephew Cael is two! I wrote him this letter when he was born and since it took me a while to find it and since I still like the letter very much, I thought I'd re-post it here for posterity.

Dear BabyMoon,

You're here! Welcome to this crazy and beautiful world. We've all been waiting for you for a long time (well, relative to your time anyway) and here you are, arriving just when the time was right for you.

While you might not know it yet, lots and lots of people love you already. You're part of a pretty terrific group of people (they'll have you playing cards in no time, beware). They'll be there through thick and thin so remember that when you're twelve years old and they're embarrassing you in front of your friends.

A couple of important messages. You're mama is one the most beautiful and amazing women I know, so be good to her. You're big sister will probably try to take your toys and otherwise torture you at times. Don't worry about it too much, that's her job and she loves you.

Your family likes to travel. The world is an amazing place, full of kind and generous people (disregard what you might hear on the news). Go out and meet them, and be one of them.

We won't meet for a few months yet but when we do, you'll find that you have yet another auntie and uncle who will be a very special part of your life.

You have a big job ahead of you. You'll have to learn how to crawl, how to write, how to ride a bike, how to do your own laundry and how to be a kind and loving man. We're all here to do our best to help you get through the bumpy parts and celebrate the sweet parts.

Until we meet....
Your loving Auntie Jenn and Uncle Brian down under
June 6, 2008

Here he is (on the right) with Riker's other cousins, Teagan and Gavin (who by the way is expecting a sibling in November!) YAY!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Wrapped in Love

Riker has received so many beautiful blankets as gifts! Over the last several weeks, all of our photo sessions have been devoted to capturing a photo of him with each of them. I was just about to say that I'm sure he will treasure each of them forever, but I think the reality of the situation is more that I'LL treasure each of them forever and will try to prevent him from dragging them through puddles :)

This quilt was handmade from vintage fabrics by my friend and colleague, Dierdre Pearce:

This one was hand knit by Grammy Jan's friend, Carol Ramey:

The softest blanket ever is from Grandma Betty's friends, Judy and Dave Gabrielson:

This waterproof naked-time blanket was made by Grammy Jan:

This technicolor beauty was crocheted by Riker's Great Aunt Nancy:

This one is from my second cousin Angela and her family:

And finally, this matching knit set is from Joan and Ross (Joan married us and she is Riker's first cousin twice removed):

Thanks so much to all of you! PS. I promise to keep these blankets away from not only puddles, but from finger paints, peanut butter and jelly, mud pies and other messy boy exploits!