Website: Children's Harnesses by Elaine, Inc.
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and parenting my 2 boys: My Boys Can...

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Thinking of buying a Special Needs stroller to contain your child? My Child-to-Adult Harness may fit the bill instead

This stroller costs $1,500+ USD
More than a few of my customers have told me that when their older child has become too much for them to manage, their doctor has recommended they purchase a special needs stroller, or push chair, to strap their child into so they can once again safely leave the house. 

These strollers don't come cheap. All of them cost more than my first car. If your child can't walk and a push chair is a better option than a wheelchair, then such an investment makes sense. You'll get years of use from it and your child will love it. 

But if your child can walk, I can't help but think that a special needs stroller is quite the luxury ride. 

A couple of other things come to mind besides the expense of a special needs push chair
  • Your child is accustomed to walking. How will they adapt to being tied to their new chair? Is this type of restraint new to them? Will it be accepted?
  • Will it take more than one person to get your child seated in the stroller and secured to the harness? Will you be able to cope on your own or will it take 2 people to get your child secured?
  • The seatbelts and harness that are stitched to the stroller will fasten at the front of your child well within their reach. Will your child undo the buckles so they can get out of the stroller to walk?
  • How will the use of the stroller impact the amount of exercise your child is getting? Safety first of course but will this mean your child no longer has the option to walk? Or only limited opportunity to walk? If they are accustomed to walking (or running!) most of the time, and now have to ride, will they have other opportunities to get exercise?
If you are considering a special needs stroller or push chair for your ambulatory child, I beg you to have a look at my Child-to-Adult Harnesses before you make your purchase. Maybe a walking harness is all you need to keep your loved one close at hand. My harnesses are:
  • made to fit your child but adjustable to last for years
  • buckle at your child's back. Replace the buckles with locks to increase security
  • the harness + any accessories + shipping and taxes (if any) would be less than $200
Two years ago I had a customer who had spent a huge amount of money on a second hand special needs stroller for her teenage daughter. Obviously her daughter could get out of it in seconds because all the buckles were at the front. Because of this problem she went looking for a way to keep her daughter seated. She found me and ordered one of my harnesses plus a chair strap. But once she had my harness, her daughter was able to safely walk again and the stroller wasn't used!

No one gets it right the first time all the time but if you do your research and mull things over, it usually pays off. Maybe even to the tune of $1300 in savings.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Do you write your cell phone number on your child?

Is he wearing a cell phone #?
I'll confess that I don't belong to any parenting forums but a few years ago when I first started my business, I wandered into one to see what the word was about harnesses. I quickly learned that the safety strategy of the day was to write your cell phone number on your child's neck before leaving the house. The idea was, if you lost your child they would surely be found by a Good Samaritan who would call your number and wait for you to come and collect your little one. This strategy was overwhelmingly preferable to using a harness with your child.

I got out of that forum and went into a few others and the word was the same. Writing your cell phone number on your child was hugely better than even CONSIDERING using a harness. Never use a harness. No no. Geepers, what would people say about you? What would they think?

 Sure I'm biased toward harnesses and obviously I'd be delighted if every little kid had one, especially one of my Child Harnesses LOL, but I must admit I was completely thrown by this whole "write your cell number on your kid" idea. It's a wonderful strategy if you could be assured that your child would be found by someone like me or you. Well, maybe not me because I don't have a cell phone so I'd have to track down someone who did so you could be called and told we have your child. But you wouldn't mind waiting a bit longer while I did that would you? 

Or would you? 

And this is where I know I differ from the women in these forums. I would be a complete and utter wreck if I lost sight of my boys in a crowd. Incoherent, hysterical, likely vomiting with worry. I can only imagine - actually, I don't want to imagine - my reaction if something like that ever happened. But the Moms in these forums were so cool about everything! Don't stress! Write your cell number on your toddler, it will all be fine! No big deal. If you get separated, you'll get called! Just don't ever use a harness!

Ok, but why not use a harness so you don't have to worry about losing your child in the first place? 

Call me crazy but I like to repair the fence while the horse is still in the barn. 

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Dr. Andrew Wakefield. I doubt we'll ever know everything

This morning as I was listening to Dr. Andrew Wakefield on CBC Radio 1's The Current, I couldn't help but be impressed by his well composed answers to Anna Maria Tremonti's pointed questions. And his refined British accent definitely helped his arguments sound convincing.

I don't think we'll ever know the whole truth around this incident. But since I spent a little time in research myself and I know a little about the process of submitting scientific research studies for publication in medical journals, I can't help but think that the Lancet also has some explaining to do.

From the interviews I've heard, the crux of the matter seems to be that Dr. Wakefield did not randomly select the children for his gastrointestinal research study; some children were referred. This of course would bias his results. Which would also render his findings meaningless.

What I don't understand is why the problematic method of selection was not identified by the peer review board when Dr. Wakefield initially submitted his research paper for publication. Considering the controversial nature of his findings, his research should have been - and I think WOULD have been - picked apart by a fine toothed comb. Data collection, methodology and statistical analysis is where peer review boards look the closest because the validity of the results rests 100% on the necessity that all these steps are carried out appropriately.

Peer review boards are notorious for challenging the researcher to justify their methodology and the interpretation of their results. It's their job. Correspondence passes back and forth between the board and the researcher for months, sometimes for more than a year before all the board's questions are answered and the research is either approved for publication or rejected. Maybe I misheard something but I got the impression that the Lancet only announced NOW (actually a few weeks ago) that there was an issue with Dr. Wakefield's data collection methodology. 

The paper was published in 1998. The Lancet makes their announcement in 2011. I wonder what more we will learn about this controversy in the next 13 years.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Winter Running

For those of you looking to add 30 minutes or so of cardio a few times a week, don't be allergic to considering a run around the block at night while the kids set the dinner table. Winter running can be a nice change from the summer sun and being out in the cold elements gives you an extra glow of inner toughness.

A few additional pieces of equipment are a good idea when running in winter: 

Wear a hat. Even if the temps aren't too bad, a hat is a good idea. You can always take it off and stuff it in a pocket but chances are you'll wear it the whole time. Make sure you can pull it down over your ears, otherwise wear ear protectors too.

Wear windproof mitts. Your hands will sweat so you'll likely only need the one layer. I have an old pair of windproof mitts from the Running Room that are a snug fit around the wrist (essential) and big through the palm to accommodate another layer underneath (that I never wear).

Wear a reflective vest. I'm guilty of not doing this every time I go out at night but at least I own one. 

Wearing wind pants over your sweat pants can be the difference between being miserable and thoroughly enjoying your time away from house and home. Find a light pair; their purpose is to act as a windbreak. It's your sweats underneath that keep you warm.

Lousy conditions = better workout. Snow and slush that fills your treads and pile up around your feet means poor traction so you'll have to work a little harder to make it around your usual route that feels easy in the summer. Winter winds can whip across open areas and make you count the seconds until the next turn. Don't think about pace. As long as your working, you're doing your body good.  

Do your lunges after your run. I always do 2 sets of 20, walking a bit between sets. Head up, eyes forward, hands on your waist or arms bent at your sides. Lunges are a great way to stretch, build leg muscle and strengthen that core. It's tricky keeping your balance and it's your core muscles that stop you from falling over. 

Walk home. This is a must. The worst thing you can do is run to the bottom of your driveway, hurry inside and sit down to a big meal. Stop your run 200 to 300 metres from home, do your sets of lunges and walk the rest of the way. You won't freeze.

Leave your shoes upside down to dry. Anyone who has put on wet running shoes when headed out the door knows how awful it feels. Make sure it doesn't happen to you. The treads are the last to dry so leave your shoes upside down so the dampness is pulled away from the treads. If you have space in the kitchen, lean your shoes against the fridge by the vent.

Winter running does involve putting on a few more things but it's worth the effort. Feeling the cold winter wind on your face when the rest of you is warm and working is a magical combination. That inner glow goes a long way to helping you cope with the less pleasant things in life. 

Like when you get home and the kids tell you it's your turn to do the dishes.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Money Matters: Going for quality is always a smart move

You've likely received your January credit card bill in the mail by now with it's long list of December purchases of food and gifts for the holiday season. 

The timing can never be good for bills but I always find January to be particularly difficult. Maybe because it's followed so closely by the end of March when we pay taxes that weren't deducted at source. Oh, and if you have any spare cash lying around it would be a good idea to make that RRSP contribution. And now that the new year has started, I'm free to put another $5,000 into my Tax Free Savings Account if I happen to have it stuffed in the mattress.

If money isn't already on your mind most of the time, it's likely front and centre right now. And if you don't have much of it, it's critical to be smart with the little you have.

This past weekend we went shopping for a new couch for our livingroom. The old one didn't owe us anything after 20+ years with my parents, my sister, then us. The first place we went to had a very nice couch but it was a bit outside our price range. The second place had a couch we liked but was also more than we wanted to pay. After some back and forth with the salesman, the price came down. And down. And down. Then the 5 year warranty was added, no extra charge. 

I asked for a few minutes to think things over and was sitting alone on the couch when I noticed the couch in front of me had a big rip in the back. Oh my gosh, was that the same manufacturer? I hopped up to check, couldn't see a label but it was a similar style and fabric so I was guessing yes. Then I had a closer look at the couch we were considering buying. Oh oh. I called over my husband and pointed out all the open seams, the way the legs were attached, my goodness it was not well made. Now it was clear why the price had plummeted more than $300 in less than 5 minutes of conversation.

We went back to Stop #1 to have a closer look at the first couch. Every seam was sealed. The quality far surpassed the other one, there was no comparing the two. So we had a re-think. We knew that whatever we bought was going to last us for a very long time and sure this one was more expensive but in the long run, it certainly looked like it would go the distance.

Sold. We opted for quality because I still believe you get what you pay for. So stay tuned. In 20 years I'll let you know if our new couch is still holding up.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Getting Exercise in the Winter. It's not as hard as you think

When I was training and I HAD to be out in all sorts of miserable conditions because the sky really would fall if I missed a workout, I didn't enjoy it I just did it. But now that I'm not training and I don't have to be out at all, I find myself thinking it doesn't look so bad out there and maybe I should venture forth with the kids.

Getting exercise in the wintertime may take a little more effort than throwing on a pair of runners and grabbing the bike helmet but it's worth it. A few phone calls or a few websites visited and you'll have options to lay out for the kids:
  • Family Skates at the local arena are usually scheduled on the weekends or on a Friday night. Sometimes they are sponsored by a local politician or a local coffee chain so entry is free. Even if you have to pay, it's usually inexpensive. You can go any time during the few hours that the Family Skate is scheduled. 
  • does your town have an outdoor skating oval? Outdoor skating ovals that are maintained by your town have arena-quality ice surfaces that make skating a bit easier for everyone. Evening floodlights and park closures at 11pm mean it's your schedule that determines when you go not theirs.
  • pond skating is always preferred over rink skating. Once the weather has been cold for a while, detour past your local pond to check the ice condition. Your town likely posts a board or coloured markers to let you know. They may leave the Caution marker up for weeks even though they're using the tractor plow to clear the snow off the ice. When conditions are safe, get your kids out on the pond. Learning to skate over bumps and cracks is a sure-fire way to improve balance and turn good skaters into great ones. 
  • If skating isn't your thing, build a snowman or a fort. The kids love it. Need proof? Go look at a local school yard to see what the kids accomplish during recess.
  • Tobogganing on some local hills is a thrill for everyone. Bring back your own childhood memories, assuming your kids will let you have a turn. And chugging back up the hill just makes that downhill ride all the more enjoyable.
  • Check the Family Swim schedule at your local community centre. They usually add more Family Swims during the Christmas Break and March Break. Watch the age limits for the kids; some Swims are for parents with young children only, other Swims are for children over the age of 6.
  • Go for a walk at night to admire the Christmas lights. This is by far one of my most favourite winter activities. Usually the wind has dropped so it's not as cold as during the day. Wrap the kids up and get them out there. Find the moon, look for the evening star. Everyone can have their own hot chocolate; a straw fits very well in the mouth slot for the mugs the kids are using. Choose different routes and check out what your neighbours have done.
There is no denying that exercise takes effort. But when the biggest effort is coming up with something to do, remind yourself that sometimes the simple things count the most. By the time everyone has their jackets and mitts and boots on, chance are your kids will have thought up a ton of neck-breaking activities to fill in the next few hours.

    Saturday, 22 January 2011

    Make plans for Family Literacy Day, January 27

    Yesterday my son brought home a notice about Family Literacy Day on January 27. The notice had a number of suggested activities that we can complete together as a family leading up to that date. The activities are laid out in a Bingo card format and the idea is for families to complete as many activities together as possible. The students return their sheets to school on the 27th for a chance to win a book and a gift card from Chapters. 

    The activities on the sheet are wide-ranging. Apparently Literacy can be a broad term. "Fix or build something around your home" is one of the boxes so I guess they're assuming you'll be referring to a manual if you decide to put up some drywall with your kids.

    Other suggestions were; Make a craft together, Count out the money together when shopping, Choose a book to read to your whole family, Make alphabet soup and make words out of the letters, Read at home for 30 minutes. 

    All the suggestions are excellent and they all have the underlying theme of encouraging activities that bring families together. But in some ways it makes me sad that these reminders have to be said in the first place. I often hear parents say "it's faster if I do it myself". True enough but before you know it, the kids will be grown and gone and you'll be doing it by yourself all the time. 

    For me, I try to make every day Family Literacy Day.

    Friday, 21 January 2011

    Traveling with your Toddler? Maybe you should pack a Child Harness

    If you are planning a trip for March Break you may want to consider packing a Child Harness for your little one.

    Since you don't use a harness at home, why would you need one when traveling? A couple of reasons come to mind. 

    If your trip involves taking a flight, you'll likely have to arrive at the airport early which may translate into an extended period of waiting before your flight boards. Furthermore, if  your child's stroller has been checked with the rest of your luggage, you won't have it with you while you wait. But filling in that time by going for a walk is an excellent opportunity for everyone to get some exercise, especially your little one, and having them on a harness while doing so will keep everyone together.

    Traveling is exciting for all family members, including yourself. There is lots to see and do. But you're likely to have a heightened sense of paranoia in a new place and looking around to enjoy the sites while keeping your eyes on your walking toddler may be more stressful than you thought. Having them safely on a harness at your side will allow you to walk with your head up and your eyes a-gander most of the time.

    Whether you're at home or away, your child's stroller still morphs into a magnet on wheels for all sorts of stuff that comes from nowhere. Before you know it it's carrying everything BUT your child. But that's fine if you have a harness for them. They can walk and you can continue to shop. When they're tired, they can lay on top of everything to keep it from falling off.

    Where you're headed should also be a consideration when thinking about whether or not a harness would come in handy. If you're visiting a major theme park such as Disney almost every child you see will be wearing a harness so you'll blend right in.

    small stuff sack
    If you have never used a harness with your child but are thinking of getting one specifically for a trip, it would be a good idea to order it in advance so everyone has a chance to get used to it prior to departure. My Child Harness comes with it's own stuff sack so it's easy to tote along and toss in your purse - NOT your luggage!! - to have on hand whenever the occasion arises. It may quickly become an essential item that you won't leave home without.

    Thursday, 20 January 2011

    Kids and Physical Activity. They should meet more often.

    Yesterday there was yet another report from Stats Canada about the inactive youth in our country and I must say the numbers were more shocking than I had imagined. 

    Of kids aged 6 to 19 years, only 7% were "active enough to make health gains".

    For children and youth, 8.6 hours (62%) of their waking hours were spent being sedentary and this increased to 9+ hours for children aged 15 to 19 years. The percentages of obesity among young boys and girls aged 6 to 10 was also disturbing; 8% and 5% respectively.

    Why has physical activity essentially disappeared from the lives of our children? What can we do to get it back? As a parent, what examples are you setting for your kids? Could you lose a few pounds yourself? According to the report, chances are you could.  

    Oh come on, don't shoot the messenger.

    Adding small doses of physical activity to your day can be as simple as walking to the end of the street with your kids after dinner. Ask how their day was. Ask questions so they tell you more. It's amazing how much happens in their worlds and when given the chance, they'll tell you everything. Soon that walk to the end of the street will turn into walks around the block.

    What about bike riding? Do the kids have bikes? If they are riding and you are walking, you'll be able to stay out longer and walk further while the kids ride ahead.

    Walk your kids to school if you can. Bizarre idea? What's bizarre to me is seeing the long line of cars at the front of the school every morning to drop the child right at the door. Can you park a few blocks away and walk at least that distance to school? Once a week maybe? For your kid's sake? 

    TV, video games, computer time, there are lots of convenient excuses and pleasant distractions to keep all of us sitting around at home. But speaking from experience, there are lots of equally pleasant distractions outdoors too that are worth exploring at least a few times a week.

    Wednesday, 19 January 2011

    Introducing your older child to their new Child-to-Adult Harness

    If you are considering one of my Child-to-Adult Harnesses for a larger toddler or someone with special needs, you may be wondering how your child will react to wearing their new harness.

    Well, I've got good news. 

    Chances are excellent, even more than excellent, that they will take to their new harness like a bee to honey. 

    Shocked? Me too. 

    I'll admit that I have been thrilled with the feedback I've received over the years from parents who have told me they had no trouble getting their child to wear the harness. I thought surely there would be issues. The harness is Strange, it's New, it's Unfamiliar. But when the parents started telling me more about their child's reactions to their new harness, it all began to make sense.

    For the most part, before the harness arrived these children were constantly held in a death grip by their wrist, hand, shirt collar, pants belt, jacket, sleeves, hood, whatever was available. See my earlier post "Are you using your children's clothing as a harness?" These kids had NO FREEDOM. They never had their hands free. They never had the sensation of walking ahead of Mommy. They were constantly grabbed and being pulled along or they were constantly pulling against someone.

    And from the parent's point of view, you're darn right the child was clung too. When your child has a habit of running off in a flash, you're not likely to let go.

    Which is why the harness was necessary in the first place. And once the harness arrives and the child has a chance to wear it, all sorts of new sensations open up for them.

    They have their hands free! They can walk 'alone'! They can move around and Go Here and Go There without struggling against the weight of an adult immediately by their side. In many ways, their whole world changes and they have the chance to experience a sense of freedom they've not felt before. 

    Parents often tell me that their non-verbal child will bring the harness to them as a signal that they want to go out. I've also heard plenty of times that their child likes wearing it even in the house (see my earlier post "The Hug Factor in my Child-to-Adult Harness").

    So if you're thinking of ordering a harness but are not sure how it will go once you receive it, have faith that it's worth taking the chance. Odds are good it will work out just fine for both of you.

    Monday, 17 January 2011

    Kids have a poor diet? Let them make dinner!

    It's a miracle that neither of my children have scurvy. The statistical side of my brain highly doubts they are getting all the vitamins, minerals and fats their growing bodies need from the 3 or 4 items they agree to eat. But amazingly enough, they still have hair and fingernails and teeth and are still outgrowing their clothes. 

    I've always had the boys help in the kitchen, stirring flour and baking powder and mixing the eggs and butter, but recently with the cold weather I dusted off the slow cooker and implemented some Child Labour. Time for the 6 and 7 year olds to make dinner.

    And yes, I did have an ulterior motive. 

    I had a feeling the boys would be more likely than not to eat a dinner they had made entirely on their own.

    I suggested a turkey stew, they agreed (thank goodness) and before bed that night they went to work. Out came the slow cooker pot, the knife, chopping board, vegetables, spices, measuring cups and measuring spoons. The 6 year old likes to stand on the stool, the 7 year old prefers to squat like a Bedouin on the counter. They did everything, from measuring the water and spices to chopping the carrots, celery and onions. Pieces were big, mind you, because the vegetable was always secured with a foot at one end while the knife worked away at the other. Once, when the piece of carrot was particularly huge, I told them the pieces had to fit on a spoon so out came a spoon and each severed piece was placed on the spoon before receiving approval and entering the pot. Then they switched and the younger one cut the celery while the older one did the Quality Control. Cutting the onion was not a popular chore and they both decided that would be my role in future. 

    And so it went. 

    In the morning, I put in the turkey thighs and the youngest turned the slow cooker on Low. There was much discussion on the way to school about having the turkey stew that night. They were both so excited when I made such a big deal over them making dinner.

    And the results of this Experiment? First of all, it was absolutely delicious. Other findings: the oldest ate a full bowl; carrots, celery, onion, meat, it all went down like nobody's business. The youngest had the broth and most of the pasta letters. Strides for him, believe me.

    And me? Well, statistically speaking the results may not have been significant but I'm feeling better about the odds of their diets improving.

    Friday, 14 January 2011

    When Mommy has a Disability

    In this day and age of political correctness, I'm out of touch with the current terms used to refer to adults who, well, in the olden days like 5 years ago would have been referred to as 'handicapped'. So I hope I'm not upsetting anyone by using the term 'disabled', especially if it's been replaced by something more vogue for 2011.

    What does ANY of this have to do with Child Harnesses you ask?

    Well I'm pleased to say that I've had a number of parents with disabilities order my Child Harness so they could keep their busy little toddler with them while they were out doing their errands.

    In fact, a Mom who had one hand ordered a Child Harness so she'd be able to take her little one swimming. It worked out so well that she ordered another harness to use just for walking.

    Then there was the Mom who was a Paralympian (for Canada no less). She used her wheelchair when she traveled and she needed a harness so her daughter could walk through the airports while she rolled.

    Other Moms have been in wheelchairs or on braces, some have needed harnesses with leads they could attach to their waists, some were able to hold onto the lead themselves. But whatever their circumstances, they were all women getting on with their lives and using whatever they needed to do so.

    You Go Girl.

    Thursday, 13 January 2011

    Closing the Generation Gap

    Call me cautious, but when my 80+ year old Mom wanted to take the boys out on her own, I was strapping them into their harnesses in a jiffy. 

    And if she had been 60, I'd have done the same. My oldest was a temperamental little guy and all sorts of mundane and normal things could set him off. If he decided he was going "this way", forces of nature could not change his mind.

    The point is, with the boys on their harnesses, they could go for walks with Nana, go over to the park, go shopping and basically be out of my hair and I could relax knowing that Mom wouldn't have to chase them down if any "episodes" occurred. (Please don't spend any time imagining an 80 year old woman running after a 2 1/2 year old...)

    Thanks entirely to their harnesses, my boys were able to spend quality time alone with their Nana.

    An increasing proportion of my customers are grandparents who are the child's main caregiver during the day while Mommy is at work. These grandparents, being a rather clever bunch, realize their sprinting days are over and conclude that using a harness with their grandchild is a simple solution to problems that may arise when venturing outside.

    They are closing the generation gap with a Child Harness that keeps their loved one, who is already close to their heart, close to their side.

    Wednesday, 12 January 2011

    Choose your Lead Length, Choose your Freedom

    Among the many advantages to making my own Child Harnesses and Child-to-Adult Harnesses is I can usually bend to the whims of my customers.  

    And my clever customers know enough to ask.

    A few years ago I had a Mom ask for a 9 foot lead for her Child Harness.

    Why not! It had never occurred to me to offer leads of different lengths. But where she was going, there would be plenty of space for her little one to roam and More Freedom for him would be ideal if I could only provide a 9 foot lead....

    After that, I changed my order forms to give customers the option to order whatever lead length they wanted.

    And the requests have been many. I particularly loved the Smart Mommy who ordered a 15 foot lead to use at the beach. She'd be able to watch her son and read while he played in the sand but stayed safely out of the water. Lots of my customers who are going on a cruise usually order a 7 foot lead to use with their Child Harness. I've had schools order 10 foot leads for their Child-to-Adult Harness so the child could safely play on the outdoor equipment but not bolt from the school property.

    I love my business for many reasons but it's particularly rewarding when my customers come up with ideas and suggestions that make my (fantastic!?) product even better for Customers Yet To Come.

    The Evolution of my little harness business. Who knew?

    Tuesday, 11 January 2011

    Introducing your toddler to their new Child Harness

    Typically, parents who order a Child Harness from me do so because they have a toddler on their hands who wants nothing to do with the stroller. Why ride when you can run around and best of all, away from Mommy?

    These toddlers have been Free Range Children for the most part but now Mom and Dad are having a more difficult time keeping tabs on them and a harness becomes a must. There may even have been a few incidents in public where an actual and heart-stopping separation has occurred between Mommy and said Toddler before a Happy Reunion sees said Toddler firmly anchored back into the dreaded stroller.  

    So what happens when these little people suddenly have to wear a harness?

    You'd be surprised.

    First of all, after a short trial period which usually takes place in the livingroom after dinner, the toddler has adjusted to wearing the harness and has accepted it fully.


    You got it. Sorry I don't have anything more dramatic to relate.

    But if you think about it, it makes sense. Toddlers WANT TO WALK (see my earlier post, The Importance of Walking) and chances are good that they haven't been able to do much walking for the past little while. Why? Because they're quick on those little feet and it's very tricky keeping an eye on them so they've been forced to ride ride ride.

    But hey! What's this! A comfortable little strap to wear and I can do all the walking I want! For them, that's all they care about. They have regained their freedom, they have regained control over when they walk and when they don't, they have their Get Out Of Stroller ticket and it's fantastic. They've become a Free Range Child again and it's thrilling.

    And it's rather thrilling for Mommy too.

    Monday, 10 January 2011

    "My Child is a Runner"

    To say that I hear this phrase a lot would be an understatement.

    I don't hear it with every order but when I do hear it, believe me, there's an order for a Child-to-Adult Harness in the same breath.

    Many MANY parents have told me their child is "a runner". Sometimes I hear "he's always been a runner" and sometimes I hear "she never used to be a runner but she sure is now".

    As with all things children, there is variability. But whatever the circumstance, it seems that having a Child-to-Adult Harness in your arsenal is a good idea when caring for a child who is likely to take off in the blink of an eye. They will still take off, but only to the end of the lead.

    Being "a runner" is a period of behaviour that will last as long as it takes your child to overcome and control their urge for flight. It may last for years. As you and your support team work with your child, you may need leads of different lengths for their harness. Some parents order my standard lead (5 feet 8 inches) to use every day as well as an 18 inch lead to use during therapy sessions when the child is being taught to walk beside their caregiver.

    "This too shall pass" as they say, but in the meantime, your child in a Child-to-Adult Harness will at least mean they won't be miles ahead of you.

    Sunday, 9 January 2011

    Housebound with your child? Consider getting them a harness!

    My customers have wonderful and important things to say, sometimes shocking, always moving. But one thing I hear consistently is that my customers are housebound with their child and will remain that way until they receive their harness from me. Some parents have not been able to take their child on an outing for literally years. 

    Think about what that means for the child and for the parent. For the sake of a harness, they have not been able to take their child for a walk, go to the park, go shopping, do their errands with the child, NOTHING!!! They find me on the internet, they order a Child-to-Adult Harness and their world changes completely. Even today, one Mom told me "I am excited because I hardly take my son anywhere. Because he doesn't stay seated and runs away this will be such a blessing Thank you Elaine". When she receives her harness, her world will change for her and her son and she knows it.

    A few years ago a lady called me from New York. She had seen a woman using one of my harnesses and she ran after her to ask where she got it, hence the phone call to me. She told me she could only leave the house with her 12 yr old son if she had her 2 sisters and her Mom to help. Four adults were need to watch her son if she was to take him out in public. But with my harness, she'd be able to take him out on her own. 

    In many ways this blog is no more than a literary path between you the reader, and my customers who tell me things. I'm just the messenger passing along their comments and experiences, paraphrasing here and there and keeping it relevant. 

    Remember, don't shoot the messenger but if you are housebound with your child, you just might want to consider getting them one of my harnesses.

    Saturday, 8 January 2011

    Do you have an Animal Backpack Harness?

    Do you use an animal backpack harness with your toddler? If so, do yourself a favour RIGHT NOW. Go get it and check it over.

    Have a look at the stitching where the arms attach to the body and where the buckle does up in the front.

    Inspect the back where the tail is attached.

    Have a look at the plastic snap hook on the lead and the d-ring attachment on the body.

    Everything ok? Any rips or tears? No? GREAT! Put it away and rest easy.

    See any loose threads? Seams coming apart? Then get that needle and thread out RIGHT NOW and do some mending. You owe it to yourself and your child.

    You see, I've never personally used an animal backpack harness. I know it's a popular seller and I'm sure that for 95% of people out there, it's a great harness that does the job perfectly. But it feels like the remaining 5% have become customers of mine specifically to replace an animal backpack harness. One Dad told me he was tired of him and his wife sewing it back together. Another told me it lasted "about an hour" on his 2 year old. I had a guy call me from Arizona with a rush order to replace an animal backpack harness because the plastic snap hook broke when his son was going down some metal steps. His 3 year old went face first down the stairs and was "a real mess with blood everywhere" by the time he hit the bottom. (They paid $59 in overnight shipping to get my harness the next day.) Now I've just had ANOTHER customer tell me the plastic snap hook broke on their son's animal backpack harness and they were very much looking forward to getting mine. 

    All I'm saying is if you have one, check it over.

    I had a leather harness for my son and I never DREAMED that he'd end up breaking it at the tender age of 2 1/2. I never checked the harness, it never occurred to me that I should. It was leather for heaven's sake, I should have been able to trust it. But the lead came apart in my hands just as we were heading out the door. I still shudder to think what would have happened if it had come apart when we were on the street and he was doing is usual tugging.

    I don't want to come across like I'm saying anything bad about the animal backpack harnesses. That's not my intention at all and that's not the message I want to send. But I've had SOOO many customers replacing one that I almost feel obliged to tell you that and to share some of their stories. 

    You're using a harness with your child and for that I'm Cheering You On big time. Just do yourself a favour and make sure it's still in good condition!!

    Friday, 7 January 2011

    The 'Hug Factor' in my Child-to-Adult Harness

    You know when you hold the door for someone or say "Good morning" when you pass them on the sidewalk? Your simple gesture of kindness, something that you do all the time, may have just had a big impact on that strangers' day.

    You start out doing one thing and all sorts of unexpected rewards jump out from nowhere for someone else.

    That's the way I feel about my Child-to-Adult Harness. I love the design and I know it's comfortable to wear and I know it's incredibly effective in keeping people much stronger than me safe. Heck, my customers with autism and ADHD wear their harness every day all day year in year out. What more endorsement do I need?

    Well the lovely thing that is happening is the completely unexpected "rewards" that my customers are getting from their harness, benefits that I didn't see coming and either did they.

    Take for example the man who ordered my Child-to-Adult Harness for his brother who is living in an assisted facility. In true brotherly fashion, he wore the harness himself for a number of days before even showing it to his brother. By the way, this made perfect sense to me because I would have done exactly the same for my sister. He was great with his emails and he always kept me updated with reports about how it was going with the harness. He ended up really enjoying wearing it because he said it was so comfortable and made him feel like he was being hugged all the time. 

    How could either of us seen that one coming? 

    I have had a number of customers tell me their child would bring their harness to them to have it put on, even if they weren't going out. I've heard this so many times but I really didn't know what to make of it until now. It's the Hug Factor! And given the way I know God has created and directed my business, I think it's incredibly fantastic that He's literally hugging His beautiful children this way.

    Thursday, 6 January 2011

    A Peck of Dirt

    When we were growing up, we almost never got to stay home from school. There had to be vomit, spots or a temperature over 102F. If one of our friends had the measles, all the Moms were on the phone to each other making arrangements to send their kids over to the sick kids' house to play. Same with chicken pox.

    Summertime was spent in bare feet. Oh the joy on the last day of school when the shoes came off for good! Once our soles toughened up, no gravel road could slow us down. Grass, sand, dirt, stones and wonderful mud. All underfoot, all summer long. Feet as black as pitch by September and all the scrubbing in the tub before the first day of school was a ritual that always marked the end of summer.  

    In those days there wasn't the obsession with cleanliness that seems to be everywhere today. Lysol spray and handiwipes and disinfectants and sterilizing toys once a week and NEVER eating anything that fell on the floor God forbid. Mom always said we needed our peck of dirt and that was definitely our thought too.

    When I designed my own Child Harness, it had to have a long lead so my boys could have all the room they needed to explore the ground beneath their feet. I wanted them to be able to get close to the earth and follow the bugs with their fingers, make patterns in the dirt and pile up the sand at the park. They had to have the freedom to walk a distance away from me and crunch through the fall leaves at the side of the road. Their harnesses kept them with me while they explored our world and acquired their own peck of dirt along the way.

    Wednesday, 5 January 2011

    The Importance of Walking

    Sometimes re-stating the obvious is a good idea. We all know that walking is an easy and effective form of exercise but how many of us are denying ourselves AND OUR CHILDREN of this simple pleasure? How many of us leave the kids at home and drive around doing our errands because it's easier and faster? And if we take them with us, how many of us CARRY our child to the car, then when we get to where we're going, lock, strap and buckle them into a stroller TO RIDE while we march off behind like their Prison Warden?

    Let my kid walk? Are you crazy? They're too slow and it's TOO MUCH WORK TO WATCH THEM!

    Walking is a critical and essential part of childhood development. Practicing those gross motor skills gives that young brain a workout far greater than any of us adults can match. A 3 year olds' brain is twice as active as an adults (I read this today in a neurologic magazine). When a child learns to walk, it's a brand new skill for them that's exciting and fun and thrilling to practice! How do you react now when you learn something new? How many hours straight did you play Guitar Hero? What about Wii? Remember the first time you rode a bike without anyone holding onto the back? You didn't want to stop. Ever.

    When a child graduates from crawling to walking, it's a new skill that they desperately want to practice. And for the sake of their development, they NEED to practice walking. But unfortunately the trend of denying them this important pleasure is evident everywhere.

    Having your child on a Child Harness will not help you do your errands any faster. In fact, it's guaranteed to slow you down. But maybe that's a good thing. Go at your child's pace for a change. Absorb the colours and lights and sounds and smells around you just like your child is doing. Let them walk safely beside you, let them burn off that extra energy, let those neurons in their brains fire away, let them practice their new skills of balancing, walking and running.

    And when they get tired, you've got their stroller and their favourite blanket right there waiting.  

    Tuesday, 4 January 2011

    Are you using your child's clothing as a harness?

    We've all seen it.

    The Hood Harness. The toddler walking along with the parent holding the hood of their child's jacket with the zipper done up to the top and cutting right across the throat. Usually the parent is bent over because the Hood Harness always has a very short lead.

    Or the Sweater Harness. This harness tends to lose it's shape during the first outing.

    The Grab the Back of the Shirt Harness has a majical lengthening lead as it sheds buttons in the front.

    Believe it or not, child's clothing as a harness remains one of my biggest competitors. But like using your blender to mix cement for the walkway, it's not always a good idea to use whatever's on hand when proper equipment is available.

    If you are clinging to a small toddler, their wardrobe is kindly asking you to take a look at my Child Harnesses and if you have a larger toddler or someone with special needs in a death grip, you may want a look at my Child-to-Adult Harnesses. Sweaters and jackets and shirts all over the place are cheering you on.

    Monday, 3 January 2011

    Thank You Poem

    A few weeks ago, a Mom called me to place her order and said she had been reading another Mom's comments about my harnesses in an online forum. When I got off the phone, I was so flattered that some stranger was saying nice things to others about my product and I was so grateful she had taken the time to do so. Praise had found me through a third party and it felt very different from a customer telling me directly how much they appreciated their new harness. It got me thinking about the absolute power of kindness and I was inspired to write:

    Oh kind word how far you spread
    one to another, our daily bread.
    Like long ago at Christmas time
    freely given to mankind.
    Here today, never gone.
    Oh kind word, forever strong.

    Sunday, 2 January 2011

    How I started making Harnesses for Children with Special Needs

    It was not my own doing.

    I had designed my Child Harness in September 2006 and by October, I was quite happily in the process of setting up my business and selling my new design at trade shows and off my fledgling website. I was a happy stay at home Mom with my new little business and my 2 little toddlers. Office work and the 3 1/2 hour commute was a thing of the past and I was filled with joy at the new direction my life had taken.

    That lasted 2 months.

    In December (2006) I was at a local trade show when a woman stopped by my booth and asked if I did custom orders. Her friend had a 9 yr old son with autism and she had to tie him on a rope whenever she took him out. I told her of course I would help and gave her my business card to pass along to her friend. She left my booth and I turned into the corner and started to cry. I was so completely and utterly overwhelmed by the thought that something as simple as one of my harnesses could help that Mom and her precious boy. The joy I had felt before was nothing in comparison to what I experienced then. Like standing on the bank of a pond and being fulfilled by the sight, I had seen the ocean and been overwhelmed.  

    God has directed my life in so many obvious ways in the past that the examples I could give would keep another blog going for years. And here it was happening again. So you see, it really isn't my own doing that I make harnesses for children with special needs. Sure I operate the sewing machine but it's really God's work in action and I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

    Saturday, 1 January 2011

    What connection does Elaine have with Special Needs?

    Since I personally don't have children with special needs, you may be wondering why 50% of my business is helping children with special needs. It's a simple answer really. My sister had Down Syndrome. She was 11 months younger than I and we were as thick as theives right from the get-go. We did everything together and nothing slowed us down. When her wheelchair and oxygen tanks became our constant companions, we took them with us - sometimes with challenging results like the time her chair got stuck in the mud in the forest and we had to "portage" to higher ground. By the time she was 38, her heart had had enough and finally quit completely.

    Growing up with an angel as a constant companion undoubtedly influenced my outlook on people and life in general. But I must honestly say I have never thought of anyone with special needs as being too different from anyone else. If they look different on the outside, or if their brains make their body do things beyond their control, they are still just as deserving as the rest of us to feel the sun on their face, the grass along their palms, the ground under their bare feet. They are valuable and cherished members of our communities and if they happen to need a piece of special equipment such as a wheelchair or a harness to be out in our communities, then so what. When I'm 80, I'll be needing a walker!!

    A few years ago a family friend asked me if I felt my business was my sister's legacy. I burst into tears and said I certainly feel that way.