Tips and Tricks in Adoption and Pediatrics

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Custom Picture Books Made Easy

iPhoto Books

iPhoto Books

iPhoto on the Mac and several PC-friendly photo websites make it incredibly easy to publish a book with custom photos and text, for under $30. I think that this is a totally underused service, and one that is dynomite for families, especially adoptive familes.

Imagine the possibilities:

  • Sending a book to your preadoptive child with pictures of your family, your home, and your neighborhood, with labels in English and their native language.
  • Creating a gorgeous hardbound lifebook, without any "scrapbooking" skillz whatsoever.
  • Printing a smaller, pocket-size "flipbook security blanket" of reassuring people and places, for difficult daycare and school transitions, or for scary moments in the middle of the night.
  • Using this for custom "social stories", with scripts and Stuart Smiley affirmations for situations your child may be struggling with. Photos and optimistic narrations of your child's bedtime routine, eventual toilet training success, trips to loud stores, a photo-rehearsal of the bus trip to school, and so on ...
  • Or do-it-yourself books on your child's obsession du jour. My friends made an incredible photobook of big machinery from Dad's bike commute, through the Ballard locks, along the train lines, past the tugboats, through the sculpture garden construction site, and to the downtown office towers. The narration was personal and better-written than most books in this genre, and the whole project from photos to book order took less than a day. Their vehicle-obsessed 2-year-old loves it ... best birthday present EVER.

Make That Lovie Funky

Lest you were concerned that I've gone 'round the bend on this James Brown business ... I'm referring to a different kind of funk. Smell. And a different kind of lovie: a Security Object, like a blanket or "taggie". Familiar caregiver smells are a potent releaser of oxytocin, the "bonding" and security hormone. You can use this to your family's advantage ...

Make your child's security object, lovie, or blankie smelly in a good way by using it during feedings. Having it close to your body can let it absorb both your own good funk and the smell of breastmilk or formula. If one parent tends to feed more often, another caregiver can use the lovie to evoke a happy-well-fed feeling when rocking and consoling the child later. That lovie can be a real help with bedtimes and daycare transitions too. Just make sure to invest in identical backup lovies if possible, and rotate them to keep them all equally funky. Wash infrequently, if at all.


Everyone knows the "over-the-shoulder" approach to burping, and that works just fine. If you want to take your infant burping technique to the next level, though, try this tip from my twin-in-law:

Sit your young infant on your knee, and support their upper chest and jaw with your hand, so that their head doesn't fall too far forward. Let their torso collapse forward a bit, bounce your knee, and pat their back with your other hand. Professional-grade burps, every time.

Greet Your Kids "On the Good Foot"

Here's a nice tip from Deborah Gray, not to mention James Brown. Like the hardest working man in show business, start your interactions on the "downbeat" ...

When you greet your kids in the morning, or in the middle of the night, or are walking into a sibling melee, try talking to them on the exhale, rather than in a tense inhale, or held breath. Try it - take a deep breath (or 2 or 3), let your shoulders melt, and greet them on the exhale. Calm is contagious.

Placebology for Warts

Warts seem to lend themselves to wackadoo mind-body interventions and other folk medicine approaches. They're a slow-growing viral infection that usually last until your immune system decides to fight them off. Thus anything that irritates the wart or activates your immune response seems to help. Here are some nifty but not-well-researched ideas for warts, short of freezing them off. Now, I do love my liquid nitrogen; it's fun to use and you can do some cool office tricks with it. But consider trying these first:

  • Trace an outline of the affected body part on paper very night, and let your child draw a big 'ol X over the wart area
  • Rub the wart with a cut potato, and bury the potato one foot deep at the stroke of sunset, or some such complicated ritual. Tom Sawyer used a "spunk-water stump" in the middle of the woods.
  • Go to a "witch doctor" and have a wart-begone spell done (this worked for my mom growing up in France), or just come up with your own incantation and do it every night.
  • Daily hot water soaks have had some claims of efficacy
  • Apply apple cider vinegar on a piece of cotton gauze under a bandaid each night
  • Or apply dandelion milk nightly, or banana peel, or garlic juice ... I could keep going here folks, and probably will. Feel free to add your own wart remedies in the comments. This page has quite a collection as well.
  • Finally, there's the infamous DUCT TAPE therapy. This one has a published study to support it, where 85% of warts resolved with duct tape, compared to 60% with freezing. Apply a piece of duct tape the size of the wart directly to the wart and remove it 6 days later. If it falls off, reapply a new piece. At 6 days, file the wart with an emery board or pumice stone after soaking it in water. Leave the wart uncovered to air overnight. Repeat the 6-day cycle in the morning, for up to 2 months total.
In general, if you're treating the warts topically (duct tape, salicylic acid paints and plasters, etc), you want to keep them filed (emery board) or shaved/clipped down to the fresh wart skin, so get rid of the dead skin regularly. Soaking first can help, so why not try that "hot water therapy" while you're at it. Have fun!

Ink Test for Scabies

Here's a simple test that you or your doctor can do when you're asking the "is it scabies" question. First, look carefully for fresh itchy bumps or thin grayish squiggly lines (burrows) in the skin, especially at hands, inner wrists, fingerwebs, elbows, armpits, ankles, feet, diaper area, belt-line, and abdomen. Infants and young children can get scabies on the face, scalp, and neck, unlike older folks. Magnifying glass and bright light can help.

Take a dark washable wide-tip marker, and rub around the suspicious bumps or burrows. Then take an alcohol wipe or alcohol-soaked gauze and wipe away the ink. If there's a scabies burrow under the skin, the ink often remains, showing you a dark irregular line. Occasionally a tiny dark dot is visible at the end of the burrow - that's the mite.

At the doctor's office, we might use mineral oil and a scalpel to scrape the burrow and a fresh bump or two onto a microscope slide, to look for the mite, or its eggs and feces. But the ink test can be done at home, if you're curious that way. In children recently adopted from institutional care, we do have a pretty low theshold to treat for scabies for intensely itchy skin rashes.

The Toilet Fairy

One tip for particularly resistant potty-goers involves taking yourself out of the loop:
  • Let your child discover a fish-bowl of stickers, or cheapie toys (cheap toy + quick wrapping job = major delight), along with a letter from the Toilet Fairy. The letter can convey unwavering confidence in their eventual success, and promise a reward from the bowl for each success. This lets you be the child's ally in the process rather than the person doling out the rewards.
For other excellent tips, see this post and comments that follow:

Binky-Weaning Your Persistent Pacifist

Tip from a family of ours for binky-weaning:

Have a Binky Tree ceremony, where all of the binkies are collected and hung from a small tree in the yard. In the morning the binkies are gone and a tricycle or other gift from the binky spirits is there.

Other folks have thrown a "Paci Party", with presents, guests, and a cermonious throwing away (or passing on to the new generation) of the pacifiers. It's nice to mark those coming of age ceremonies.

Or ... if you're more tough-love and less into faeries: take a scissor and snip into the nuk part. They're not as nice that way, and kids lose interest. If you have a particularly persistent child, this may not work, of course.

Tickets for TV Time

One nice way to limit TV time with some degree of child autonomy and delayed gratification. You can download stylish 30- and 60-minute denominations here.

Parent Hacks: Real-world parenting tips from real parents

Mel came up with a brilliant way to put her kids in charge of monitoring their own screen time:

I got tired of being the boss of when my kids (three and five) could watch videos and DVDs. I also wanted to help them learn to make choices about media consumption while they’re still young. So I decided to set up a ticket system.

Every Friday, they each get tickets (purple for one kid, green for the other) that can be redeemed for ½ hour of “TV” time. I keep them on the fridge, so the kids can access them easily. They rip one off when they would like to watch something and give it to me. I always say yes, unless there’s a reason that it absolutely can’t work (like we need to leave in 15 minutes, or someone absolutely needs to use the computer). I want to give them the experience of making their own choices and practising delayed gratification. Whatever tickets haven’t been used at the end of the week are deposited into a “book bank,” where they magically transform into $1 per ticket that can be spent on books, which we would have been spending anyway. (Goes a long way at our local thrift store!)

We started up this system about five months ago, and it has worked wonderfully in our house. I don’t get nagged about “TV,” they’ve learned to think through their choices, feel a sense of control and empowerment… and the joy of having their very own books. Everybody’s happy!