Baby Proofing Before Baby Learns to Crawl

Last time we spoke about safety measures to take before you bring your newborn back to your Greater Oklahoma City home from the hospital.  Now that baby’s home and soon to be moving about (albeit at just a crawl) it’s time to consider the next phase in baby proofing your home.  That means it’s time to talk about perspective; it’s time to take a look at your home from the perspective of your soon to be mobile infant.  So get down on the floor, crawl around on your belly, see what you can find under the couch, and let’s get busy:

  1. Childproof locks keep babies away from chemicals under the sink, out of the knife drawer in the kitchen (once they are toddlers), and generally away from all kinds of potential mess making and dangerous situations.  Once you have locks on all the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen, laundry room, and bathrooms take it a step further.  Go around and check to make sure everything hazardous in the house is kept stored inside one of those locked cabinets or drawers.
  2. Furniture, with hard or sharp edges.  Minimize hard and sharp edges in rooms the baby will frequent like their bedroom and the family room.  Any sharp corners you are unable to eliminate by moving furniture to other rooms need to be dulled by adding padding or bumpers.
  3. Shorten/tie up window blind cords.  Baby may not be able to reach window blind cords just yet, but that time is not too far in the future.  Blind cords pose a strangling hazard for all children, not just infants and toddlers.  Tie up blind cords well out of reach of all children.
  4. Outlet covers.  Babies want to touch everything they can get their hands on (or fingers in).  Put covers on all electric outlets.
  5. Perspective.  This is the get down and roll around on the floor part of the experiment.  Right after a baby finds something new on the floor the very next impulse is to put that object in his or her mouth.  So, are there lost Cheetos under the couch?  What about coins or other choking hazards?  Clean out underneath all your furniture.  Get in under cushions.  Vacuum.

Here’s a comprehensive list of baby proofing tips for your soon to be crawling bundle of joy.

Baby Proofing Before the Birthday

You’ve already painted your Greater Oklahoma City nursery walls pink or baby blue (or green, or turquois).  The crib is assembled, and the changing table is fully stocked with diapers, ointments, wipes, and multiple changes of clothes.  It’s an exciting time.  Your very first little bundle of joy’s arrival is still a little ways away, and the anticipation has been building daily.  Why not pass some of the waiting time baby-proofing your home before your new arrival brings along with him (or her) more frequent family visits, sleepless nights, midnight feedings and any of a million other responsibilities and pleasant distractions that could keep you from putting some safety measures in place before baby comes home from the hospital.

  1. Carbon monoxide and fire/smoke detectors.  These are an often overlooked safety measure prior to the arrival of a new addition.  Test all carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, make sure you have enough detectors (and all properly located) for the size of your home, and install fresh backup batteries for each unit.
  2. Baby first aid kit.  First aid for babies can be difficult just because of the little one’s inability to tell you exactly what’s wrong.  Still, there are some must haves in a first aid kit for every family.  Check out this link for a comprehensive shopping list for a kit for the family with a newborn.
  3. Car Seat.  Car seats should be installed facing backward, according to the manufacturer’s directions, for the safety of your baby.  Practice installing and removing the car seat so you are a pro by the time baby arrives, and consider installing a sun shade on the window beside the car seat.
  4. No slip rugs.  These are to help you keep from slipping and falling while you’re carrying your infant.
  5. Set your water heater to 120 degrees.  Avoid accidentally scalding anyone in the house including the baby.
  6. Changing tables should have safety straps to keep babies secure and from taking a nasty tumble.  Supplies need to be within easy reach at the changing table so you don’t inadvertently leave your baby unattended in a precarious position.

For a more comprehensive list of safety measures you can implement before baby comes home check out this article on Babycenter.com.

Economic Snapshot

CNNMoney recently reported on five economic indicators in what they are arguing is now a post-recession economy.  Below are the salient points of the article.  I’ll leave their interpretation up to our Greater Oklahoma City friends.

  1. Since March 2009, at the lowest point for stocks during the recession, stocks on the S&P 500 have recovered and exceeded their value from December 2009 when the downturn began.
  2. US jobs peaked in January of 2008 at 138.1 million.  After hitting a low of 129.3 million thirteen months later, jobs have recovered to 135.5 in April of this year.  Not quite back to its pre-recession level, but on its way.
  3. The change in available disposable income from December 2007 to today has been flat.  Some ground has been regained since the recession, but allowing for inflation we’re still slightly behind those earlier numbers.
  4. Average household debt has significantly decreased which is good, however some of that gain is a direct result of the housing bubble, and defaulted mortgages and other loans.  Credit card debt is also lower.  Student loans are higher.
  5. Median home prices are recovering but nowhere near the boom levels that peaked in 2005.

Renter’s Insurance

Your landlord has (they ought to have) insurance on their Greater Oklahoma City rental building, but that policy only insures the building structure.  It does not cover any of your personal property, or personal liability if, for example, someone falls and injures themselves in your apartment.

To insure your personal property AND cover liability you need to get your own renter’s insurance policy.  This policy generally covers any losses resulting from fire and lightning, civil unrest, windstorm (see below for areas prone to hurricanes) and hail, theft, vandalism, plumbing breaks, falling objects, etc.  Here’s a list of the causes covered by the standard HO-4 renter’s insurance policy.  After you take the time to figure in the replacement cost of computer equipment, jewelry, other electronics, let alone clothing and other domestic items like furniture, you’ll quickly realize how much sense an easily affordable renter’s policy makes.  Just understand whether your policy covers actual cash value or replacement cost of your property.  Cash value will pay you what your property was worth at the time it was lost, whereas replacement cost will pay you today’s values under current market prices.  Use this handy personal property inventory sheet to help you determine your property’s value.

As important as it is to know what your policy covers, it’s just as important to know what’s NOT covered.  Don’t assume your policy automatically covers liability, be sure to verify with your insurance agent before signing on the dotted line.  The two main causes of loss not covered by the standard policy are flood and earthquake.  If you live in an area where floods or earthquakes are more likely to occur you will have to request an additional rider on your policy to cover these conditions.  The same may be true of wind damage in areas prone to hurricanes.  Ask your agent.

Homeowner’s Insurance – The Basics

Although not all homeowner’s insurance policies are created equal, they should all offer dwelling, liability, and personal property coverage.  Here’s a quick snapshot guide for our Greater Oklahoma City friends and neighbors on the basics of homeowner’s insurance and what to look for in a policy.

Dwelling coverage is the part of your policy that covers the replacement cost of the building structure.  Square footage is used to determine the value of the policy that you will need to cover replacing and/or rebuilding the interior and exterior structure of the home.  Make sure your policy has a “Guaranteed Replacement Cost” clause which states that you are fully covered even if the replacement cost of your home exceeds the value of your policy.

Liability coverage takes care of medical expenses – and if necessary legal expenses should you find yourself party to a lawsuit – if someone gets hurt on the property whether it’s out in the yard or inside the home.  One rule of thumb is to have liability coverage in the amount equal to twice your personal assets.  Your insurance agent will help you determine how much coverage you should have.

Personal property coverage insures you against loss resulting from fire, windstorm or hail, civil unrest, theft or vandalism, lightning, explosions, vehicle damage to property, ice, snow, or sleet weight damage, and water damage from plumbing or appliance leaks.  This is the same list of issues that your dwelling coverage insures you against for the structure of your home.  And regarding both personal property and dwelling coverage, hurricane, flood, and earthquakes are generally NOT covered in the standard policy.  If you live in an area that is prone to any of these catastrophes you will need either an additional policy to cover these conditions or a rider adding them to your original policy.  You may carry personal property coverage equal to 50% – 75% of your dwelling coverage.  Here’s a handy worksheet to help you determine the value of your personal property.

The House Sitter

Summer’s almost here and you’ve been planning this year’s family vacation since last year’s trip.  But a lot has changed over twelve months, namely some new additions to the family.  After years of begging and pressure from your spouse you finally relented and decided to let your children get a puppy.  The problem is when you came home from the breeder somehow you brought two fur balls home instead of one, one puppy for each child.  Boarding can be expensive, and you know the dogs would be happier in your Greater Oklahoma City home, so you wonder if a house sitter is the way to go this year.  To that end, here are some useful guidelines when hiring your first house sitter.

Important numbers.  Provide the house sitter with a list of locations where you will be staying over the course of your vacation along with their phone numbers, and include both yours and your spouse’s cell phone numbers.  It’s appropriate to list the number for your veterinarian if you have pets, and if you’re house sitter is younger or inexperienced you might also provide the number for one of your close neighbors as an emergency back up.

List daily responsibilities.  Do your growing puppies eat once a day?  Twice?  Are there any medications your pets will need administered in your absence?  Can the dogs just be let out in the back yard or will they need to be walked?  Are there plants that will need attention?  Where are they located, and how often do they need to be watered?  Don’t forget bringing in the mail and newspapers, and taking out the garbage on garbage day.

Rules of the house.  You may want to prohibit your house sitter from using a particular room, or the computer system, or maybe even the candles above the mantle.  Will you allow smoking, visiting pets, house sitter’s guests?  Be sure to discuss the items and areas that are off limits while you’re away, and any other house rules you expect to be followed so there’s no misunderstanding upon your return.

Discuss and agree upon payment arrangements before you leave for your trip.  You may pay now, upon your return, or a combination of both.  You may also decide to leave some money with your sitter for unforeseen expenses.

Fluffy and Fido Cross Country

Moving across the country is difficult enough even without pets.  There’s finding your new Greater Oklahoma City home, hiring a mover, packing and unpacking.  There are the kids, with the promise of new schools, and tearful goodbyes with old friends.  And all the details…The process can get overwhelming, then, before you know it that morning comes.  The moving truck is loaded and hits the highway, headed toward your new city.  Now for the family.  When it’s finally time to load everyone up for the long drive ahead don’t overlook the needs of our four legged family members during this time of excitement and stress.  Here are some great tips for making the cross country trip comfortable for our furry little friends.

  1. Food and water.  The evening before you hit the road and throughout the trip be sure to scale back the amount of food you feed your pets.  This won’t eliminate accidents, but it will minimize the chance of their occurrence.  Also, be sure to have a water bowl handy inside your car and a large bottle full of water for rest stops and meals.
  2. Pet carriers.  Load your pets only after everything else is loaded and ready to hit the road to minimize the amount of time they’re locked in kennels.  Load cats and smaller dogs in their carriers prior to loading in your vehicle.  For large dogs load the carrier in the vehicle first with the dog to follow.  Do not leave animals unattended in the car at any point during the trip.  The inside temperature of parked vehicles can become dangerously high in a short amount of time.
  3. Potty breaks.  Attach leashes to pet carriers in your vehicle so you don’t have to root around to find them during breaks.  Keep a poop scoop handy in the trunk.  Don’t be in too much of a hurry when your animals finally have a chance to stretch their legs at rest stops.  Allow them the time to do their business, snoop around, and get some attention from other family members before relegating them to their carriers for the next leg of the trip.

Additionally, be sure your animals have up to date vaccines and paperwork prior to the move, plus having your animals tagged with current contact numbers or even having them micro-chipped in case they get lost might not be a bad idea.

Fire Evacuation Plan

Every Greater Oklahoma City home needs not only a fire evacuation plan, but a plan that you have practiced with the whole family.  Here’s how it works:

Plan.  First, you need to know you house.  Every room has to have at least two exits for escape.  Every bedroom has a door leading to the interior of the house, so there’s one.  Does each bedroom also have a window or other secondary egress?  Are bedrooms on the first floor, second floor, in the basement?  And where are the other members of the family located in relation to you during the middle of the night?  Draw an evacuation floor plan.  Choose a meeting place outside the home where all family members will convene during an evacuation, like a neighbor’s house across the street.  Go speak to your neighbor and let them know they are your emergency “go to” location.

Discuss your plan with all family members.  Gather everyone together.  Go over the plan thoroughly, taking time to tell children specifically what to do in an emergency.  Explain how smoke/fire alarms work, and hit the “test” button so everyone has a chance to hear what one sounds like.  Point out the location of fire extinguishers in the home.

Practice your plan.  Go through every phase of the plan from children starting under the covers in bed, sounding the alarm, and quickly exiting the house to rallying at your meeting point.  Give your children a time-limit goal to beat.  Remind everyone never to go back into a burning building.  After everyone is accounted for safe outside the home then you can count your blessings and call 911 from your neighbor’s house.