Viv's Adventures at Camp Baby

Wednesday, April 2nd

I was up bright and early this morning, at 5:30 a.m., and if you knew me IRL you would already be astounded, because I am NOT a morning person.But this morning I was excited, because I am going on an adventure: It's the first day of Camp Baby! And after the Terrible Awful Horrible Time I had last month, I've been looking forward to something new and different.

So I put myself together without really grumbling too much and headed off to the airport with the Engineer, who is Mr. World Traveler Man and cognizant on every little thing you need to know these days, like the plastic bags for liquids and where to put your shoes, etc. He was sweetly protective and walked me right up to the security checkpoint before letting me go with a promise to call him when I made it to Newark airport.

I'll spare you the details of the flights, as they actually were surprisingly trouble-free. The Engineer had worried that, since my flight was coming in pretty early in the afternoon, I would have to wait for a Whole Flock Of Mommies before we took off for the hotel, but that wasn't the case at all.

The moment I came off the escalator at baggage claim, I was greeted by the smiling face of my chauffeur and his big GM sign, and then Ava hurried up to greet me. I made it out of the airport quickly, especially when you consider all the construction going on at Newark ( are there any airports left where there ISN'T construction going on these days?).

The ride over to the Heldrich hotel in the snazzy Escalade was uneventful (I rode up front with the driver and had the whole huge vehicle to myself, like a rock star). In the lobby, the lovely Johnson and Johnson ladies were all set up with name badges, schedules and local area info, the check-in went like a breeze, and a delightful thank-you gift from Camp Baby and Neutrogena awaited me in my spacious hotel room. I'm thinking that in a little while, I will check out New Brunswick, which looks picturesque (definitely more so than Newark airport).

But first, naturally I fired up the laptop to let you all in on my adventure. And just then, the phone rang.

Up to this point, I had been so pampered that my first thought was, 'Uh oh. They have me confused with someone else, and now the jig is up, and they're going to make me go home and do Mom stuff after all. And the Owl has Robotics Club today.'


But no, it was just the front desk calling to confirm that my room was comfortable and I had everything I needed.

You know, I could get used to this pampering thing. 

Wine Tasting with Ted Allen

Ted Allen, of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "Top Chef," from Bravo, hosted a wine tasting called, "Dare to Pair," Wednesday evening for all of us Moms, and I just have to tell you what an engaging speaker he was!  The focus of the event was how to pair the perfect wine (for you, not because some wine sommelier in a French restaurant recommends it) with everyday dinners.  

We tasted six different wines (that's right, SIX, I can feel you groaning in envy as I write this) with various foods, learning to mix and match.  For instance, we found that: 


In general, you want a wine that is higher in acid than the food you are eating, so while, say, a Chardonnay works with plain, grilled (boring, diet-friendly) chicken, you will want to switch to a Sauvignon Blanc if you have seasoned you chicken with lemon (more acidic).  We liked Merlot with sun-dried tomato, and found that a Cabernet vinetta complemented sharp cheddar cheese.  And, if you saw the movie Sideways, Pinot Noir IS a great wine to go with heartier dishes (I would use it in my Coq au Vin, for example).  (Interestingly, Ted says that the price of Pinot Noir and the demand for the wine went WAY up after the movie.

All the wine for the tasting was donated by Constellation wines, which owns the Robert Moldavi, Clos du Bois and Ravenwood ("No Wimpy Wines!") label.  And if you want to find out more about wine and what tastes pair well with which wine, you can go to

Okay, all of that was educational, and I learned a lot, because I am a total wine ignoramus.  But I have to say, it was Ted's anecdotes that had me enthralled.  He's a great story-teller, and he had dirt on a lot of the other Bravo folks, like the chefs he was worked with before and what the Queer Eye guys are doing.  

One of my favorite stories concerns a cookbook Ted worked on with other chefs.  He said that when he heard the names of the luminaries involved in the cookbook, like Charlie Trotter, he couldn't believe it.  He actually called Charlie up after the fact to verify that he was, yes, also submitting recipes.  And when the cookbook came out, Ted couldn't believe that HIS recipe was the first one listed (which, he assures us, is NOT because Allen came first alphabetically, oh no!).  But he was mortified when he opened the book, because, "the first ingredient on my recipe was a tube of store-bought biscuits."  And Charlie, as he puts it, wouldn't even make a PBJ unless the bread was "baked by paraplegic lesbians of color."

Ted has set up his own blog now over at Bravo, check it out (it's also on the Cool Moms Rule blogroll).

 My Take:  Ted's engaging and open speaking manner helped lift this talk about wines, funded by Constellation wines, from slightly dry to light and refreshing. ; )

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sleep Deprived No More

Dr. Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, author of Sleep Deprived No More, led an informative session followed by Q and A on sleeping problems and how to get your infant or toddler to sleep through the night (and so get more sleep yourself).

We all know that kids need more sleep than parents.  But parents need sleep, too.  I was amazed, when the call went out, to find there was a segment of the audience subsisting on 4 hours of sleep a night!  

So, the first step to more sleep for BOTH you and your children? A consistent sleep routine that leads to what Dr. Mindell calls "self-soothing."  Once you establish a set routine for your child each night at bedtime, your little one will develop habits to help him (or her) fall asleep.  Children who need their parents to help them get to sleep at night (called "signalers") do not have a set sleep routine.  So what is an appropriate night-time ritual to help your child fall asleep?  In a study of over 300 children, consisting of 130 infants and 200 toddlers, Dr. Mindell and her colleagues discovered that these steps work best for each age group:

Nursing Infants, Infants

Nurse early in the bedtime routine.

Have someone else go through the bedtime routine.

"Dream feed" at 10 or 11 at night.

Routine: Bath, massage, quiet time. 


Stickers or bedtime chart rewards for sleeping through the night

Most sleep problems occur 1-2 weeks before developmental milestones

"Sleep Fairy" - doesn't come if the child stays awake.  Put a penny under your child's pillow every day for a year and it will be the best $3.65 you have ever spent!

"Good Morning Light" for very early risers.   If your young one is up at the crack of dawn, put a light on a timer.  When the "good morning light" comes on, it's time to get out of bed!  Before then, your toddler can simply lay quietly in bed, or play quietly in her room (Dr. Mindell assures us this really does work).  

Routine: Bath, bedtime story or quiet activities, dimming the lights to create a soothing environment.

Children with Special Needs

If you have a child with a sensory disorder or a very specific developmental problem, your task, of course, is much more difficult.  To date, no world-wide studies have been done on the sleep patterns of children with sensory disorders.  However, during the Q & A session of our talk, other Moms found weighted blankets, swaddling, and white-noise machines to be the most effective.

 Okay, that's all well and good, but where can I find information specific to MY child?!

 Thought you were going to trap me with that one, didn't you?  Nope.  Dr. Mindell and her colleagues have set up a customized, interactive tool called the Customized Sleep Profile.  You will want to click through the intro and use the link on the page entitled, "Make It Your Own" to access the sleep profile, but then what I like about this tool is that it is completely PRODUCT INDEPENDENT, meaning it has no association with, or push for, a particular product or product line.  Instead it is intended to help you determine what kind of sleeper your infant/toddler is, and how to help them get the sleep they need (so you can get the sleep you need, too).

 My take:  Informative, well-researched and helpful information for Moms.

Baby Products

Our next forum topic was about your baby's skin and eyes, why they are different from an adult's (quick answer: both are more sensitive) and what to do about it.

Of all the talks of the day, this one felt most like a Johnson and Johnson commercial to me.  Added to that, the speaker, although I am sure it was unintentional, spoke as if she were talking to a group of preschoolers.  I felt that she was using a different, sweeter, more singsong voice and basically condescending to her audience, so that may be why my own reaction to this presentation was so strong and so negative (however, the Moms sitting near me echoed my own sentiments at lunch time).

I think most Moms are aware of Johnson & Johnson's "No More Tears" shampoo and baby wash, so telling us that baby's eyes are more sensitive and they tend to rub their eyes when they are tired just came across as a selling point rather than crucial health information.

My take:  Spare me. Give Moms some credit next time.


Dr. Scott Jens spoke with all of us Mommy bloggers about the program.   This is an incredible program, and every Mom should know about it.  A Not-for-Profit organization with more than 7000 doctors enrolled nationwide, with a grant from Congress of $438K last December (and it should have been more), Infantsee saves children's vision, and in some cases, their lives.

Dr. Jens made a compelling case for the need for infant vision checks.  Infant's eyes go through a lot during their development, and recommended eye checks should also occur again at age 3 and age 6.  Your pre-school may run these checks, but there is no substitute for an InfantSEE doctor early on, because these people are amazing, and have resources just not available to pediatricians.

We saw a video with several tearful stories of infants whose conditions were diagnosed as a direct result of this program, including one boy who had a dangerous tumor on his eye.  It was just a small white spot, and his pediatrician ignored it or missed it entirely during his regular check-ups, but his Mom just knew something was wrong.  You know that intuition you have when you just know something is up?  

Anyway, she took her son to an InfantSEE doctor, who correctly diagnosed the tumor.  This boy (I shudder even writing this) had to have his eye removed.  If his Mom hadn't taken him to the InfantSEE doctor, though, he would, quite simply, have died.  Even after he was diagnosed, the woman's pediatrician was defensive, claiming the tumor, which was large and growing, had basically appeared overnight, and not been there when he examined the boy.  But the kid wears glasses now (cute sunglasses!) and he can see, and he's alive, so to hell with that pediatrician, and yay! InfantSEE.

If you have an infant, get his eyes checked free.  You'd be amazed; I spoke with a fellow blogger whose son had an eye problem that wasn't diagnosed until elementary school.  The teachers felt her son was mentally handicapped.  Turns out he was a very bright boy trying hard to compensate for horrible vision.

I could go on with more stories, but just go to the InfantSEE program's website or contact them by phone at: 

(888) 396-EYES

(InfantSEE is a not-for-profit program which is only partially funded by J&J and affiliated with the Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Institute.  Grants from Congress also help fund their important, life-changing, and sometimes life-saving work.)

My take: such a wealth of good information about a program I never even knew existed gets it highlighted directly on Cool Moms Rule!  Sorry if you jumped and read this twice, but hey, it's important, people!





Disclaimer:  When reading the posts on this page of Cool Moms Rule only, bear in mind that Johnson & Johnson invited bloggers to attend Camp Baby and paid for our travel.   I was not coerced into writing positive reviews, nor compensated for the posts that I wrote while at Camp Baby; however, lodging, airfare and the seminars we attended were sponsored by J&J and the Camp Baby partners.