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Running A Zone Defense

 Maddie’s ten months old now and has been crawling and cruising for almost two months.

And boy, am I tired.

We’ve been working on baby proofing the house for almost as long, but it’s a tedious process made even more time-consuming by my obsessive market research and maniacal need to know what Consumer Reports thinks about a product. By the way, register to be an online user with them; cheaper than the yearly magazine subscription and allows you to look up the best outlet plugs at 2 a.m. But I digress:

Over the past several weekends we’ve been working our way through the house, installing all the gear I ordered online to make the house a safer place for Supergirl. It’s by no means perfect yet; we still have the odd job to do here and there. But by and large, I can put baby girl down in any room of the house, at least long enough for me to get a glass of water, and she’s not in imminent danger.

We’ve approached baby proofing with an eye towards creating some incredibly safe zones for her while not completely throwing out all our glass cabinets. I wanted to be able to shut Madeleine in her room, for example, while I answer the door and not worry that when I come back five minutes later she’ll be inches from death. That’s the first “zone” we tackled, clearing away stray cords, taking out bumpers, and so forth. I find her room to be incredibly peaceful now; it seems remarkably clean all the time since the floor is kept picked up. What a concept! And I enjoy having her love a space so much – she crawls towards it many times during the day, just to hang out. She’s got one floor lamp I couldn’t bear to part with (the gingham shade is so cute!) and it’s now stowed behind the enormous glider. My other favorite baby proofing solution: we wanted a small lamp over the changing table, but have no small table near it to put one on, and no way to safely leave a floor lamp in that space. The solution? A cute little plastic flower lamp that hangs on the wall. It plugs into the (baby proofed) socket below. Ten bucks at Ikea.

Another area we needed pretty foolproof was the living room. We want to be able to hang out with friends and chat while allowing her some free space to roam; constantly saying “no” is not our idea (or hers) of a good time. Away went many of the miscellanies – decorative candles, etc. All the remotes got collected off the coffee table and stowed in a cute basket on an end table. The radiator is now blocked from her, as are the lamps. Our large square coffee table has foam bumpers all the way around so I don’t have to hover anxiously while she cruises around it, which she can do for long stretches of time without tiring. The only area I haven’t quite figured out yet is the entertainment center; it’s in a diagonal unit in a corner and is chock-full of cords and wires. I bought a configuring child gate to put across the corner, but we’ve got elaborate molding on the walls and the gate won’t attach safely. So I’m stuck on this one, and resorting to “Stop!” over and over. Anyone with ideas that don’t involve spending hundreds of dollars on a new entertainment center with doors, please speak up.

The last safe zone we created was the kitchen. We just finished this one last weekend and it’s made a significant change in my quality of life. No longer do I need to hold Maddie the entire time I fix her breakfast; I can put her down to crawl around while I make oatmeal and toast. And gone are the days when I had to strap her into her booster seat while I cooked dinner, a tactic that worked for only brief periods and usually only with copious amounts of Cheerios. Now she happily “cooks” with me.

The kitchen was a bit of a challenge; we’ve got those cheap melamine cabinets that splinter with too many screws. But three hours of cursing under his breath after he started, my husband had all the drawer and cabinet locks neatly installed. We used a door handle lock on our poison cabinet rather than the inside catch locks; I just trust it more not to break. I scrubbed the kitchen floor and baseboards from one end to the other while my mom tackled all the cabinets and stove, so I can honestly say our kitchen floor is clean enough to eat off of. I installed an oven lock to keep baby girl from poking her head in a hot oven; yes, I know ovens come with locks already, but I have girlfriends who have tried to use one while the oven was on to disastrous results – some ovens think any time you lock it while it’s on, you’re trying to self-clean. Eating cookies baked at 500 degrees for half an hour is not my idea of fun.

I skipped the dishwasher and fridge lock: the dishwasher we’ll use the original lock, and the fridge, if she has the strength to break that pressure seal she deserves a little snack. On the advice of my friend and stay at home dad Graham, we created a little play corner for Maddie; she’s got her own set of plastic bowls and spoons to use while we work now. But my favorite part is the floor.

Our floor is hard tile and while I can’t be hovering as she cruises around the kitchen cabinets, I’m not comfortable with her falling and cracking her noggin on that cold floor. So we’ve laid out the alphabet mat she’d been using in the living room. We created an L-shape that covers 90% of the floor and given her a familiar space to crawl around on. It’s easy to clean when needed and honestly, I enjoy walking on it now! A pressure gate at the entrance helps keep her in while I’m working, or keeps her out while I’m emptying the dishwasher.

The whole house isn’t a padded chamber for Madeleine; as she makes a lap between the living room and her bedroom I hold my breath while she crawls through the dining room, keeping her on a short leash. But with a few zones set up where I can relax my guard, I’d say we’re doing pretty well.


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