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Charlotte+Asher creates chic diaper bags for the stylish, modern mom.

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Parenthood related topics written by the founders of charlotte+asher.

Filtering by Category: Family

Vaccines and Teens

Chantal Standafer

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This is the last week of National Immunization Awareness Month. And last but not least, it's time to focus on preteens and teens. As with babies and young children, pregnant women, and adults, there are certain vaccines that can be very important for keeping teens healthy now as well as setting then up for a healthy life.

While our kids (and yours) may be nowhere near the teen years, we know that they'll be here before we know it. And I don't know about you, but I like to have an idea of what's to come down the road. So here's the quick roundup of the top vaccinations for those formative years:

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine: Meningococcal bacteria can cause infections in the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)  and blood (septicemia). These infections can have very severe effects, including hearing loss, learning disabilities, among others. There are two different vaccines-- meningococcal conjugate vaccine and serogroup B meningococcal vaccine.  

  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine: HPV infections can cause some kinds of cancers (cervix, vagina, penis, among others). By getting vaccinated against HPV, most of those cases of cancer can be prevented.  

  • Tdap vaccine: While children receive the DTaP vaccine early in their lives, they can wear off over time. By getting the Tdap booster shot, preteen and teens can stay protected from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).

  • Flu vaccine: Teens and preteens need to receive this vaccine every year. The flu vaccine is updated each year, formulated to protect against the strains of the flu virus that are predicted to be the most prevalent that year.

No matter what stage in life you (or your child) are in, it’s important to make sure you are up-to-date with your vaccinations. If you are unsure of this, be sure to contact your primary care doctor (or child’s pediatrician). He or she will be able to assess you and provide recommendations.  Vaccines still remain the best protection against many devastating diseases!


 

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Preventative Measures: Getting the Flu Shot During Pregnancy

Chantal Standafer

Nothing like family snuggles. 

Nothing like family snuggles. 

As we get into August, thoughts of flu start to pop up. Not because it's going around yet, but the signs offering the flu shot are appearing at pharmacies. It's a gentle reminder that the flu season (generally October-March, but even into May) is just around the corner. 

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses. It is contagious, believed to be passed by droplets created when infected people cough, sneeze or talk (so basically normal daily life being in contact with other humans). People can be contagious before they show signs of the illness, and can remain contagious for a number of days after coming down with it. This illness is characterized by a number of not so lovely symptoms including fever, fatigue, and body aches, among others. To put it mildly, it's not pretty. 

Getting the flu while pregnant can be especially challenging and dangerous. According to the CDC, because of the natural changes in women's bodies during pregnancy, they are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu, including hospitalization, preterm labor and delivery. 

Good news is that woman can receive the flu shot! While there are two available deliveries of the vaccine, the Mayo Clinic makes a clear recommendation that pregnant women only receive the shot and should steer clear of the nasal spray (the latter is made from a live virus, which is to be avoided during pregnancy). The effect of the vaccination is two-fold. Just like when getting the Tdap during pregnancy, the mother is protected, plus she transfers immunity to the baby. This is extremely important because infants cannot receive a flu vaccination until they are 6 months old. 

Be sure to talk with your OB/GYN or midwife about any questions you have. They are there to help and want you to have the healthiest pregnancy possible! Plus, there's a good chance you can get your flu shot at one of your upcoming appointments. But don't worry, if that's not an option most pharmacies can administer the shot too (and usually without much of a wait)! 

Summer is (almost) here!

Chantal Standafer

June is here! It may have just begun and summer may still be a few weeks away. But for me, our summer schedule is here, and in my mind that means that summer has arrived. I am so excited about that!

During the school year our schedule gets so full with regular commitments. All of my weekly commitments, such as my MOPS mom group, ended in May and will not resume until mid-September. Yes, I'm a little sad to see some of that routine go away. But that disappointment is far outweighed by a sense of freedom. Sometimes I just need a break! 

And with this extra time I have grand plans: we're going to take time to explore our city and go on adventures. Not climbing mountains kinds of adventures, but ones that are perfect for pint-sized munchkins. Honestly, the kids think going to the library is a fantastic adventure, so we'll definitely do that a lot. And take the train. I do not have a huge bucket list for things to do, but that's ok. I want to leave room for their suggestions and to be more spontaneous. Some days that may mean just creating an adventure in the backyard.

Now that I have an idea of what I want to do, I also need to be sure to guard myself from my usual pitfalls. Generally, this is wanting to check things off of my to-do list. Or starting one thing in the house, which then spirals into other tasks. At the end of the day I look back, disappointed that we didn't get to do this activity or the other. I don't want that to be the case this summer. So my plan is that for days we plan to do an excursion, I'll have a goal time to head out of the house. I'll have to prioritize my tasks. If meeting that time (or time window) means not doing my makeup, well that's just fine. 

This also does not mean that I'll be catering to my kids and just doing what they want all summer long. They absolutely do not need to be entertained, and they certainly do not need to be engaging with me all the time! But when we do get out of the house, particularly for something stimulating where they get to explore and run around, the rest of our day goes much smoother. They're a little tired and might even nap or have quiet time. And their attitudes tend to be better. Um, yes please! 

So yes, I'm so excited that summer is here. Yes, I'm looking forward to the nice sunny, warm weather. But I am really so excited to explore with our almost 2 and 4 year olds. There's nothing quite like seeing life through their eyes, and having some quality time and fun. 

How are you feeling about the upcoming summer? What are your big plans? 

 

How to survive when baby arrives

Chantal Standafer

Baby Boyd resting peacefully at the hospital. 

Baby Boyd resting peacefully at the hospital. 

When we had our first child 3.5 years ago I didn't have a bunch of seasoned moms around me. Most of my friends were not yet having children. I had ideas of how things would happen, and had read some blog posts. I felt prepared in terms of what to purchase. But I really wasn't sure what I was getting into. 

On one hand I thought I'd be able to do it all, while on the other I was totally freaked out and wasn't sure how I'd get anything done. But mostly I was under the impression that I could, and therefore should, take care of everything. I had planned to have our freezer stocked with meals. But we moved a couple of weeks before my due date and it was crazy hot. So I didn't feel like turning the stove or oven on to cook. And Gaby was born a week early. Needless to say, we weren't completely unpacked and we didn't have meals on hand. 

And then my mom came to the rescue! She moved her flight up a week, and helped us finish unpacking, fed us and helped with the baby. She even stocked our freezer with meals for us to have after she returned home. Like I said, mom for the win. 

But once my mom left, I still had to figure out how to get meals on the table. And get the laundry done, and shower, and sleep, etc. Basically I had to figure out how to do it all on my own. And I didn't know how to ask for help. It took a while, but eventually I made simpler meals, and cooked extra so we didn't have to cook every night. 

 

Just when I thought I had found a safe space for the baby to rest, the toddler figured out how to climb into the crib. 

Just when I thought I had found a safe space for the baby to rest, the toddler figured out how to climb into the crib. 

Fast forward two years and I felt way more prepared when we had our son. I knew I would have extra demands because it wouldn't be just me and the baby. With a toddler on hand I wouldn't be able to nap as easily during the day, I'd need to get out so she could run around, plus our business had launched. I knew that I would need help! 

One of the best ways that the help came was in the form of a meals from friends. One close friend offered to set up an online meal schedule where people could sign up to bring dinner. For a couple of months we received a meal or two a week from some wonderful friends. It definitely took pressure off my plate--not needing to plan meals and figure out when to make them made a huge difference! 

So my key to surviving after baby's arrival: have a friend set up a meal schedule (we used Meal Train). No matter if it's baby number one or two, three, etc., having this checked off your list for at least a couple times a week will make a huge difference! 

What is your top suggestion for helping new parents? 

 

Giving back at all ages

Chantal Standafer

Gaby showing her jar of "money for the kids"

Gaby showing her jar of "money for the kids"

One of our family values is to be outwardly focused (and part of our company mission). Last year I shared how we were starting to teach our daughter Gaby about being grateful for what she had. And we continue to read books with those themes. But now she’s three and teaching her has grown beyond talking about being thankful. She has started giving to others intentionally.

One of the biggest instances of her giving began over the summer.  We bought floaties to use with the kids in the pool. When we opened up the packages, my very curious little girl asked me about every single piece of information that came along with them. As we were looking through it all, she became fixated on one piece. It was a glossy picture of kids. Unknowingly we had purchased from a company that partners with Operation Smile, an organization that provides free surgeries for children around the world who have cleft lip and cleft palate and other facial deformities.  

Gaby was so fascinated. She kept asking about the kids, who she referred to as “the kids whose lips hurt.”  This was the best way I thought to explain their condition to her. And when we told her that people donate to Operation Smile so the doctors could fix the kid's lips, well she wanted to give to the kids.

But the girl doesn't make money yet. So where did that leave us? My husband and I got to thinking and came up with a couple of solutions. The first is whenever we go out for a treat, we give her the option to get her own or to share. If she splits it, she gets to give the money we would have spent on the treat to the kids. She has a special jar to keep the money in. And so far every time we bring it up, she jumps at the chance to share and give the money away. Our other thought is to come up with a list of extra tasks around the house she can do to earn money. But we have yet to come up with a chores vs extras list. That will come soon though.

Giving resources is not the only way to give to others. Sharing our time can be just as valuable as giving money. There are many opportunities to prepare and serve meals at shelters. Or spending time with an elderly neighbor who doesn't have family around. The act doesn't have to be huge. Need ideas? Check out this month long calendar with a small way to give back to others every day.

How are you sharing with others this season or throughout the year?

 

Thankful for...fresh starts

Chantal Standafer

Starting off a new day with the little ones. 

Starting off a new day with the little ones. 

With Halloween behind us, it’s full steam ahead to Thanksgiving. Well, unless you walked into Target this week, in which case we’re already onto Christmas. But holiday decor aside, in the spirit of thankfulness, we’ll be focusing on this theme for the next few weeks.

In our house these days, we have one very talkative three-year-old (Gaby) and a sixteen-month-old (Boyd), who appears to be teething half of his teeth. In classic threenager fashion, Gaby talks, raising her voice to make sure that she’ll be heard loud and clear. If I am in the middle of something, she then clings to me to grab my attention. Boyd has been a little whiny and wanting to be held a lot. The need for some personal space and quiet is creeping up and up, often rather quickly.

Sometimes I can handle it well. As in the kids take a nap at the same time and I can get a little quiet time, or a nap if I’m really lucky. But other times things pile up, the kids are practically both climbing on me for attention, and well, I kind of lose it. I’ll be short with them, reacting in ways that are not the most loving. And I’m unhappy about it.

But you know what? Every day will not be great. On occasion I wake up on the wrong side of the bed. So it’s unrealistic to expect my kids to be on their A game every single day. But I can choose how I behave and interact with them. And you know what, even if I have a rough day, the great news is that it does not have to be crushing. After years of holding onto the things I did wrong each day and things that I did not accomplish, my focus has recently changed. I now realize that I do not have to be burdened by the past. No matter what happens,  tomorrow comes and it’s a brand new day.  

So there you have it. The big thing I’m thankful for is that with each day I have a fresh start. Each day starts new (even if my task list carries over!), I can learn from the past and I have the chance to make different (hopefully better) decisions than the day before.

What is one thing you’re thankful for in this busy season?

A Personal Story

Laura Hahn

As we close up August and National Immunization Awareness Month, we want to end on a more personal note. As much as we can spew facts at parents to do the right thing and immunize their child (assuming s/he is not immunocompromised), nothing can quite affect us as much as stories. So for this post, we are highlighting a letter written by the beloved children's author Roald Dahl. His daughter Olivia caught the measles in 1962, and he wrote this piece in The Sandwell Health Authority in 1986. We encourage you to read on.


Measles: A Dangerous Illness

 

Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn't do anything.

"Are you feeling all right?" I asked her.

"I feel all sleepy," she said.

In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.

The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. That was twenty-four years ago in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her.

On the other hand, there is today something that parents can do to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs. They can insist that their child is immunised against measles. I was unable to do that for Olivia in 1962 because in those days a reliable measles vaccine had not been discovered. Today a good and safe vaccine is available to every family and all you have to do is to ask your doctor to administer it.

It is not yet generally accepted that measles can be a dangerous illness. Believe me, it is. In my opinion parents who now refuse to have their children immunised are putting the lives of those children at risk. In America, where measles immunisation is compulsory, measles like smallpox, has been virtually wiped out.

Here in Britain, because so many parents refuse, either out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised, we still have a hundred thousand cases of measles every year. Out of those, more than 10,000 will suffer side effects of one kind or another. At least 10,000 will develop ear or chest infections. About 20 will die.

LET THAT SINK IN.

Every year around 20 children will die in Britain from measles.

So what about the risks that your children will run from being immunised?

They are almost non-existent. Listen to this. In a district of around 300,000 people, there will be only one child every 250 years who will develop serious side effects from measles immunisation! That is about a million to one chance. I should think there would be more chance of your child choking to death on a chocolate bar than of becoming seriously ill from a measles immunisation.

So what on earth are you worrying about? It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised.

The ideal time to have it done is at 13 months, but it is never too late. All school-children who have not yet had a measles immunisation should beg their parents to arrange for them to have one as soon as possible.

Incidentally, I dedicated two of my books to Olivia, the first was James and the Giant Peach. That was when she was still alive. The second was The BFG, dedicated to her memory after she had died from measles. You will see her name at the beginning of each of these books. And I know how happy she would be if only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and death among other children.


We are so privileged to live during a time where we can literally be immune to once deadly and rampant diseases. However, that has caused us to forget just how dangerous these diseases are, which has caused some to take vaccinations for granted. Since no one lives in a bubble and we all share the same earth, it's our responsibility to take public health seriously and not expose others to preventable diseases. The thing about disease is that it doesn't discriminate; anyone and everyone is susceptible. Not only are you loving and caring for your own children, but you are doing the same for others. So until these diseases are gone, keep spreading the word: #vaccineswork.

Celebrating Father's Day: New Traditions

Chantal Standafer

Gaby and daddy reading his new book on Father's Day 2015.

Gaby and daddy reading his new book on Father's Day 2015.

It’s June, which means Father’s Day is around the corner. And with that comes the hunt for a gift. Luckily I’ve come up with a gift that only varies slightly from year to year. But by no means is it boring.

Each year, I buy a children’s book for my husband. I write a little note in the book from the kids. Since the kids are still little, I choose the book and I write the note myself. This year I will also be able to include what Gaby wants to say in the message. But the kiddos do “sign” it. As they get older I imagine that I will take their input in the book selection and they will write their own messages themselves.

While my husband states that he doesn’t need anything for Father’s Day, that’s not going to work for me. But instead of getting him something that he may or may not really want, I want to gift him something that he can use with the kids. I know that at some point the kids will be “too old” to be read to, but really that day is far off. Spending time reading to our children is so wonderful. We absolutely love it (well, except for the random books we have that we cannot stand!). And why not get something that brings our family together.

What Father’s Day traditions do you have?

 

Road Tripping with Kids

Laura Hahn

Selfie from our recent weekend trip to NYC.

Selfie from our recent weekend trip to NYC.

With summer around the corner, vacation has definitely been on my mind. It’s always nice to get away for a bit, even if it’s just for the weekend. We’ve done our fair share of road trips, and I’ve found that compared to flights, they’re actually pretty easy with kids since you don’t have to worry about them bothering other people, and you have more space and flexibility. Road trips are also more financially feasible since once they turn 2 years old, you have to pay for your child's seat on an airplane. We do have some travel tips for flying with two kids, but here are some things you’ll want to have when preparing for your road trip:

  • Entertainment. Have your music playlists ready. I use Spotify, but any other music app or even CDs will do. A playlist specifically for the trip can help make memories and remind you of the fun you (hopefully) had while driving. We try to wait as long as possible to give our son the iPad, but it’s definitely been a lifesaver in traffic and I have downloaded new apps before a long trip. If you have a van with a DVD player, you probably don’t even need to be reading this post since you’ve got it handled. But since there's more space in a car, feel free to bring games, coloring stuff, and books. You can even make an activity station and a makeshift desk for older kids.

  • Snacks. Absolutely necessary. We usually pack one reusable grocery bag with all the snacks and food related items (extra sippy cup/bottle) we’ll need. If you have space, you can even bring a cooler. By all means pack some grown up snacks (you can eat these when the kids fall asleep), but definitely bring some fresh fruit in a tupperware, along with nuts, cereal bars, pouches, etc. Don’t forget water and other drinks. Make sure you also have a bag for trash and napkins or paper towels (but a car with kids should really have these in it at all times).

  • Travel potty. For those whose kids are potty trained, this has been a life-saver. Sometimes you can’t get to a rest stop in time, so this is a great resource. You can use your extra plastic bags from the grocery and stash them in the side. We have many a time pulled over at the next exit and had my son poop or pee outside on this. If it’s cold and you have an SUV, you can pull up the passenger seat and set it up on the back seat car floor. Just make sure you have wipes!

  • Checked car maintenance. If you’re driving far, make sure your car is up to date on oil, fluids, etc. Car trouble during a trip is bad, but it’s even worse with whining or crying kids. You also don’t want to get stuck on the side of the road if you don’t have to, especially if there’s bad weather.

What other tips can you share for road tripping with kids?

Celebrating Infant Immunization Week

Laura Hahn

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This week is National Infant Immunization Week (April 16-23), an annual observance by the CDC to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs and their partners in promoting healthy communities. This is an important week for charlotte+asher since we firmly believe in the importance of infant vaccination, as we donate a specific amount from each bag purchase to the Shot@Life organization. Through Shot@Life, we help fight against the world’s four most deadliest diseases for children: measles, polio, pneumonia and diarrhea.

While these diseases are the most dangerous for children worldwide, that is not to take away from the importance of other routine vaccines we get here in the US and other developed countries. For example, it is routine for newborns to get a Vitamin K injection right after birth, whether at a hospital, birthing center, or even at home with a midwife. This shot ensures that your baby’s blood will be able to clot properly, as Vitamin K deficiencies are extremely serious and may cause life-threatening bleeding. The Hepatitis B shot is also routinely given to newborns before leaving the hospital, though at a birthing center or home birth you may get this at the first pediatrician visit.

As parents, sometimes it’s hard to see our children crying when receiving their vaccinations. I particularly admire and am thankful for the nurses who are expert shot givers and administer the shot and band aid in one fell swoop with minimal bleeding in a few seconds. However, that momentary crying is absolutely worth it to protect them from life-threatening diseases that would otherwise cause us and them to cry. It's worth remembering that even if a child catches but doesn't die from a vaccine-preventable disease, she can still suffer tremendously and will likely need a lot of medical intervention to survive. The facts and studies are out there showing the efficacy and safety of the vaccines our children receive at their pediatric visits. Some children may experience side effects like soreness at the site of vaccine or a low-grade fever, but these are usually mild, short lived, and treatable.

We should continue to discuss the importance of vaccines, raise questions to get a better understanding of them, and strive for the best concoctions. No vaccine is 100% effective, but many are 90% or higher and their effectiveness is increased by herd immunity. We support vaccines not just to protect ourselves and our children, but also as a public health contribution--to help protect each other, especially those who are immunocompromised and unable to get the vaccinations themselves. Our children are the future; they shouldn’t be held back by diseases we have been so fortunate to effectively fight. But we need to continue fighting so that we can win, together.