Monday, August 31, 2009

Baby eats

In my parenting group, almost all of the other parents have started giving their babies solid food. I think they all started with rice cereal. This is what I had initially planned on doing as well because I had heard that that's the best first food because it's bland and easy to swallow. However, there is little nutritional value. Then, a friend of mine said, "You should look into baby-led weaning." The first time I tried to look it up online, all I found was information on extended breastfeeding. Then, I stumbled across some information on a forum that I frequent and learned what it's really all about. I also got some information from the British (I think?) website As far as I've been able to determine, the main ideas behind this theory of baby feeding are that, when babies are developmentally ready, you can give them finger foods and they will have control over what they eat, helping them to eat healthily to meet their own tastes and needs; they also start out with real foods, which is what they are typically interested in anyway; fresh, whole foods are the most healthy; and it saves work and stress for the family. Sounds great, right? But for some reason when it came down to actually starting food I still wasn't totally on board. (See my previous post.)

Last week Sweet Pea turned 6 months old. She has achieved all the typically-listed signs of readiness (sitting, interest in food, etc.) except for teeth, so I have been thinking that it's time to try some food that she can actually eat, rather than just lick. On a few different days over the last two weeks I tried sharing some home-made, mashed or pureed, baby foods with her. We tried avocado, then sweet potato, then applesauce, then peaches. Yes, I was totally breaking the rule about only one new food every four days. There are no allergies in my family and these are low-allergen foods, and of course I carefully watched her during and after trying to feed her. With each of these I set the food on a tray in front of her, and took a taste myself to show her, then Average or I tried giving her a fingertip bite. She tasted at least a little bit of each, but the only thing that didn't get a 'yuck' face and quick spit-out response was the applesauce. I've heard it can take up to ten tastes before a baby will like a food, so wasn't worried, but was a little disappointed that she didn't seem to enjoy anything.

Then, one night I ate dinner a friend's house and Sweet Pea was reaching for everything on our plates. My friend held Sweet Pea in her lap and let her grab some of the leftovers from the plate. Sweet Pea grabbed and put in her mouth: baked potato, watermelon, and a corncob. She was enjoying herself and seemed to be enjoying the food a little and actually eating some of it, so maybe there really is something to the baby-led weaning idea of self-feeding regular adult food! It looks like I'm swinging back to the baby-led weaning side. I'm not in a rush to get her to eat a lot since she is gaining plenty of weight just on breast-milk and is still only waking 1-2 times/night to nurse. So, my plan is to continue to slowly introduce new things, in sizes that she can grab and self-feed.

I hope the frozen peaches and sweet potato purees don't go to waste. I can always cook with them, I guess. Or maybe she'll like feeding herself these eventually? But I don't think I'll miss skipping over the spoon-feeding purees stage, begging and/or tricking my baby to open her mouth to stick food in, as I've seen people do sometimes.

I am discovering that with parenting, the best laid plans are not always what actually works with an individual baby. So, I might be updating that I've totally changed my mind again in a few weeks. What did you do with your baby? Or what do you plan to do with your future kids?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Our breastfeeding story

My breastfeeding story begins much like my cloth diapering story. The only other moms I knew breastfed their babies, it was healthy and cheap, and it felt like a natural choice. The main difference is that whereas the choices in cloth diapers were overwhelming at first – types, materials, new or used, etc. – I actually felt VERY prepared for breastfeeding, and like it was a straightforward decision. I had read books about it, attended seminars on it, and watched several people breastfeed for the first time, as a doula. I was a little nervous about what it would feel like and if I would be comfortable doing it around other people, but I didn't worry about it much. To my surprise, it turns out that breastfeeding is THE most challenging thing I've experienced as a new parent so far.

Before I go any further, I feel like I should let you know that at 6 months old, Sweet Pea is an exclusively breast-fed (EBF) baby. So, we have had success, but it was hard-won. Perhaps it is especially important to me because it was hard?

I was and am very committed to breastfeeding my baby. There are numerous benefits that I know about, and I tend to look for the most economical, natural way to parent - so as I said, breastfeeding is the natural choice for me. During my pregnancy, I read a few books (The Breastfeeding Book: Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Your Child from Birth Through Weaning by Martha Sears and William Sears is my top recommendation - thanks Jen!!), had a nursing cover made, got a good breast pump (I have the Medela Pump in Style - thanks in-laws!), and confirmed with my midwives that they could help me initiate breastfeeding (they remain on call for 6 weeks after the birth for any questions or help). I felt like I was as prepared as I could be. And yet...

Sweet Pea was born at home, in the morning, and I put her to the breast just a few minutes after she was born. Her cord wasn't clamped and cut until after I delivered the placenta, and she was in my or her father's arms for most of the first hours. She didn't have any painful tests or blood draws. All of this is supposed to help a baby be ready to nurse. In those first hours, she seemed hungry at times, and would suck on a finger, but didn't do great at latching on to my breast. My midwives helped me get into a good position for nursing and reminded me of the principles of a good latch, stuck around until she had sucked a few times for a few minutes, and said we were off to a fine start and to keep trying every time she seemed interested. For many mother-baby pairs, this is enough. We were not so lucky.

The next few days are mostly a blur for me. I wasn't sleeping much, and had a very very sore bottom so it was pretty uncomfortable to sit in the proper position for nursing. I kept trying every couple of hours, but continued to struggle to get her latched on for more than a minute or so at the most. My nipples were also growing more and more raw and painful from her style of latching on the end, then pulling away. I was in daily phone or in-person contact with my midwives, talking about nursing, my sutures, my mood, how much rest I was getting, and anything else on my mind. After two days of struggling to nurse, I had a visit from one of my midwives focused just on breastfeeding. For nearly an hour, she coached and encouraged me, and I felt like we made some progress. I started a schedule of attempting to nurse every 2 hours during the day, and every 3-4 hours at night, for up to an hour at a time. This meant that all day long, about every other hour was devoted to trying to nurse. On the fourth day, my milk came in, so not only were my nipples sore, but my entire chest was swollen and painful. On that day, I had one nursing session where Sweet Pea actually latched for more than 5 minutes straight, and I felt like maybe I was over the hump, but then it reverted to on for a few seconds, then back off and rooting. By this time, Sweet Pea was getting visibly frustrated every time I put her in the position to nurse. She would cry, arch, and flail her arms around. This was not the beautiful bonding experience I had hoped for. I was feeling very low, but still determined. My midwives had told me one option would be to pump and dropper-feed her if I continued to struggle, so at 1:00 AM on the fourth day I finally did that. It was a huge relief to get the milk out of my engorged breasts, and then thrilling to see Sweet Pea actually drinking milk. For the first time since her birth, I cried. The first day or two I hadn't been too concerned about her not getting much milk, because I know that babies have fat reserves that help them get through that time, but by the fourth day she was visibly skinnier and had a dry mouth at times. I wasn't really consciously acknowledging it, but I was full of anxiety about not being able to nourish her. When I called and told my midwives that I'd pumped, they encouraged me that I was doing the right thing for our situation. They counseled to me to try just pumping for two days, to help the negative association with the position of nursing fade, and then try bringing her to the breast again, but this time with a nipple shield.

A nipple shield is a very thin piece of silicone, in the shape of a large nipple and areola with holes in the end, worn over the top of the nipple. If you wash it with warm water and turn it halfway inside-out, it will stick to the skin. Apparently, nipple shields have been over-used in hospital settings for some time. I know one woman who was advised to use one for her first nursing attempt after a hospital birth, and felt like it damaged her nursing relationship with her baby. Some warn that using a nipple shield prevents the breast from getting the same stimulation as direct contact with the baby's mouth, and can therefore reduce the milk production of the mother. For these reasons and more, nipple shields are quite controversial in some circles. However, for me, the existence of the nipple shield was a blessing. Average went to Target and bought one, and I began using it at the end of the two days of dropper feeding. Sweet Pea had put on some weight by this time, and was no longer lethargic. Our first nursing session with the nipple shield was an incredible difference. It seemed to help Sweet Pea get enough of the breast into her mouth to stimulate a let-down, and the nipple shield was substantially longer than my actual nipples so it taught her the proper mouth position with the end of the nipple towards the back of her palate. It also did exactly as you would guess from the name, and "shielded" my nipples from the rubbing of her tongue. The soreness began to dissipate, and we were actually having longer, more satisfying (for her and me!) nursing sessions! I felt such relief that the entire world seemed to me to be a bright and happy place where everyone was kind and generous and I loved my baby, my husband, my entire family, and everyone around me. I had the opposite of the baby blues – the baby rosys? What an incredible feeling to be able to feed her directly from my body!
Breastfeeding at one week old.

I knew that I didn't want to rely on the nipple shield forever, so at two weeks, with the wise counsel of my midwives, and with the support of my husband, my mom and sister (staying with us at the time), and online friends at breastfeeding forums, I attempted the 48-hour cure for weaning from the nipple shield. We started out by trying each breastfeeding session without the shield, and then using it if she started to seem overly frustrated or upset. My only focus for those two days was nursing and skin-to-skin contact. I literally did nothing else besides nurse and hold her all day long, mostly in bed. Within about one day, I was almost exclusively nursing "bare." For the next several months, I continued to nurse with the shield at night, because it made side-lying nursing much easier for me, but rarely any other time. On our cross-country trip, I accidentally left the shield at my aunt and uncle's house, and so have been without it for about three weeks now, and we are now able to side-lie nurse fine without it.
Breastfeeding at six weeks old. That's not very polite, Sweet Pea!

For the first month or so of Sweet Pea's life, nursing was my main occupation. She needed to eat often, and successful nursing took a lot of effort and concentration from me to get her properly latched. At about the 10-12 week mark, it finally started to feel natural, and like I could do it and do something else at the same time. Before that, nursing was something I had to prepare mentally and physically for. It took a lot of effort to get everything to go smoothly. Now, at nearly six months old, she is nursing "like a pro" most of the time but we still have difficult sessions occasionally. My short nipples have been drawn out longer over time (I hear that they can just get longer and longer, the longer you nurse), but that wasn't such a painful process, thanks to the nipple shield I think. I went through a period of a month or two where I experienced some pain at let-down, but that's gone now. Breastfeeding has become a source of food and comfort for Sweet Pea, and is often relaxing for me.
Breastfeeding at five months old.

I am so grateful to my midwives and my family for supporting me through our struggles, never questioning whether breastfeeding was the right choice. I am a part of the minority of moms who make it this long, and I'm very glad that I stuck it out through the tough times and was able to make it work for us.

This may be the most personal thing I post about on here. I feel strongly about the importance of sharing this experience because since Sweet Pea's birth I've talked to so many moms who struggled and thought they were the exception, that there was something wrong with them, not realizing how very common these problems are!

Coming soon: an update on where we are now, advice for pregnant or breastfeeding moms, milk vs. cow's milk, and more!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Washing routine, expanded

This is an expanded version of a part of my earlier cloth diaper evangelist post, and part of the Cloth Diapering Bloggers Carnival.

carnival2 copy

Today, I'm writing about how we wash diapers at our house. Everybody does it differently. I think that for many people, the washing itself seems to be the most intimidating, difficult part of cloth diapering at first. It may even prevent many people from trying cloth, but my experience is that it very quickly becomes part of your normal household routine. We've tried a few variations, but fairly quickly learned what worked for us, and what was unnecessary for us.

Step One:
Toss wet diapers into a pail with a screw-top lid. We didn’t use the lid at first as her pee and poo didn’t smell much. Now that she is stinkier, we are more inclined to use the lid. Although I’ve heard that enclosing the dirties can make the smell worse, you do at least trap it for the most part. Most of the time, we spray off poo diapers with a sprayer attached to the back of the toilet before tossing them in the pail as well. This isn't strictly necessary, but also helps to keep the diaper pail smell down, and makes me more comfortable waiting a few days in between washings.

Step Two: Once the pail is full, I carry it and whatever wet bags are full into our "laundry room," which is actually more like a walk-in-closet attached to our kitchen.

Step Three: I run a rinse-only cycle in the washer on cold water, then a regular cycle with a small amount of powder, additive-free, detergent on warm, then sometimes an additional rinse cycle with white vinegar as a fabric softener. I use Arm & Hammer Free laundry soap (click here for a review/comparison).

Step Four: We either dry diapers in the dryer or on the line outside. Sometimes it takes and additional 20 minutes in the dryer to get all of our extra thick diapers dry. I have three tennis balls in the dryer that help things to dry more quickly, and collect hair off of the clothes.

Hanging them outside is nice because they smell fresh, and the sun gets out any stains, but it isn’t always practical. Covers always get laid flat or hung to dry. This picture of my clothes line was an entry for a contest. Can you believe I didn't win?!

Step Five: Fold and put away. You can just grab clean ones out of the laundry basket, and end your chore there, but I think folding diapers is actually kind of fun. Also, I like to have my different types sorted into piles so that I can easily grab the kind I want for different situations.

We don't do pre-soaks, hot washes, special soap, or any scrubbing. It's just like regular laundry, but typically one more rinse cycle. Sometimes, if I don't have a full load but want to get some clean diapers, like when packing for a trip, I will just add some regular clothes to the load after the initial rinse cycle to avoid wasting water. Easy peasy!

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Baby food and food dehydration

We took our four nice Henckel knives in to the Excalibur shop (great name for a knife store, right?) yesterday to be sharpened. That means that today all we have to use are the crappy, serrated-edge knives that we only keep as back-ups. I guess I am a knife snob, but it makes such a difference when you use a good sharp knife. This afternoon I cut up two sweet potatoes to make some food for Sweet Pea, and I got so frustrated with the crooked cutting and the food falling off the cutting board because it was basically splitting like a chunk of wood instead of being nicely sliced. Imagine the difference between a log cut with a chain-saw falling to the ground and a round of wood chopped with an axe shooting pieces out in all directions. OK, maybe that's not the perfect analogy, but the point is that I want my vegetables to stay on the cutting board and be somewhat uniform. Our good knives will be ready on Wednesday and I can't wait to get them back! Now, back to the baby food. I was inspired by the Mama Notes blog to get my act together and actually make some baby food to freeze. I had been toying with the idea of pure baby-led weaning, but I don't feel totally committed to it at this point, so I think I'm going to try a few purees as well as giving Sweet Pea finger foods to feed herself. Over the last few weeks, about 4 times, we've handed her a piece of food that she was showing interest in, trying to grab it from our plates. She's licked apple, snap peas, a carrot, and some avocado. I think the avocado is the only thing that she actually swallowed at all, and even then it was a pretty minuscule amount. The other things were obviously too hard for her to chew without teeth, so we weren't expecting her to really eat them, but were just respecting her desire to hold and taste them. So, maybe this week we'll hop off the baby-led weaning bandwagon and try the cooked, mashed sweet potato and see how she likes it!

The plums that I was drying yesterday were all finally ready at about 1:00 AM last night. I guess there was a lot of moisture in them. I got about three small jam jars full (pictured below), but have already eaten a bunch because they are delicious! These were really small, very sweet plums and they taste better than any prunes I've ever had. Currently in the dehydrator we have hot peppers, and I just took out a half-a-banana's worth of banana chips that Average threw in because it was sitting on the counter as he loaded up the peppers. The banana chips are also sweet and delicious. Does anyone have any recommendations for other things to try drying? I had been wanting to try drying fruit for a really long time, and so far the results are making me wish I had just bought a dehydrator years ago. The one we have borrowed from my mother-in-law is the Nesco Snackmaster, which sells for only $40.00. If you're like me and have been interested in trying, go for it!

P.S. My list of things to do yesterday afternoon was too long. I finished up this afternoon on the laundry and the checkbook, and we discovered our apple trees didn't produce much this year, so scrapped that idea. That's how my days typically go – I have a list of things to do one day, and two days later the list is close to done. Perhaps it's the nursing and diaper changes slowing me down, but probably it's that that's just how I am.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Retail Therapy Day

I am working on a series of posts about breastfeeding, and still have many more posts related to cloth diapering to edit and publish, but for today I thought I'd actually post about what I'm doing -- today. Before I started reading blogs much, I thought that that's what most of them were, because a "web log" sounds like a daily journal to me. Obviously, blogs are sometimes daily journals, and can be very popular as that, but most of the ones I read are more like articles or editorials than personal journals. I'm still in the early stages with this blog, so I'm experimenting with different styles of writing, and different topics, and thinking that I'll naturally start to focus in on what is best for me over time. This flies in the face of all of the advice that I've gotten from friends, and from professional sites such as Pro Blogger and his 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. Oh well. Without further ado, my day today:

Average has the day off today, so we both got to sleep in. Sweet Pea slept until about 10:00 AM. I got a load of wash going, put away some clean clothes, ate breakfast, and played around on the internet. I cleaned the food dehydrator that Average's mom loaned us, then washed and pitted the plums that I picked two days ago at a friend's house (thanks C, N, and A!) and Average helped me load up the dehydrator. This is our first time drying food. I'll post again with the results. Some photos of the process:

Cutting the plums, I was reminded of how dull our knives have become. When I mentioned this to my husband, he suggested we take them to get sharpened, something we have been meaning to do for about two years now. So, we actually went and did it! We wandered around the mall and wasted some money on chocolates and giant pretzels, then I suggested we head across the street to visit a baby store that I recently realized sells cloth diapers. I had gone in there the day before our trip to see if they had wet bags, and discovered that not only do they have cute wet bags in a variety of sizes, they also sell Fuzzibuns and Bum Genius diapers, which are two of my favorite brands of pocket diapers. At the time, I didn't have any spare minutes to browse around, but filed it away as something to do later. Now, after my second visit, I love this store. They have high-quality items, which means they also have high prices, but it is so much fun to look! I regretted not visiting earlier, and not registering there before Sweet Pea's birth (we didn't do the registry thing at all). I ended up buying three items: the perfect baby book I'd been looking for for months (it says sweet pea on the cover!!), a pink Bum Genius Organic one-size all-in-one diaper (most expensive diaper I've bought, but I've heard fantastic reviews), and another large wet bag (we are going out of town again at the end of the month, and I somehow lost one of our wet bags).

It was some pleasant retail therapy, but I think I came away with more wants than I went in with. I hate it when that happens. In general, Average and I have been trying to avoid falling into the trap of buying everything under the sun, and all new, for our baby. We haven't actually spent much on her because we have such generous friends and family who have bought or passed on to us nearly all of the big items we wanted and needed. But gosh, baby stuff is so cute! How does one stay strong in the face of all of the adorableness? Perhaps balancing my checkbook later today will help to kill the drive to buy... which brings us back to the rest of the day.

I checked the plums when we got home and they still have a long way to go. I was hoping to put in peppers tonight when the plums are done, but that might have to wait until tomorrow. Average took a nap when we got home while I nursed Sweet Pea. Now I'm typing away while he plays with her. Plans for later include picking apples from our backyard trees, trying to get Sweet Pea to take a really long nap, more laundry and a small sewing project, checkbook work, and going on a date tonight to the movies.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The lunchbox

This summer, I resolved to pack lunches for my husband to take to work. Three days a week he works 10-hour days, and two days a week he works 5 hours in the afternoons. So, I only need to prepare something for those three days he is away from home at lunchtime. Easy, right? I'm sad to say, I actually have only done this about 50% of the time, if that. When I do get up early enough to put a lunch together in the morning, I find I enjoy doing it. It can be fun to try to think of different things for Average to try, and different ways to include all the food groups. Yesterday, I made a pretty typical lunch for him, and documented it with our camera, to share with you! This post is part of the Purple Lunchbox series hosted by 3 Blooming Buds.

Generally, I try to have carbs, fruit, vegetables, protein, and a treat.

First, I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We like Adams Natural Peanut Butter, and home-made jam, of course. For this sandwich, I used strawberry jam made by Average's mom. We refrigerate the peanut butter to keep it from separating, so it takes a minute to "melt" into spreadable consistency.

The next item was easy: a stuffed pepper left over from dinner the night before. The pepper and several of the ingredients inside (hot pepper, onion, and tomato) came from our garden. There was also some chicken inside, which would be the majority protein source for this lunch, in addition to the cheese on top.

For the fruit element, I cut up an apple and a pear. Average is not normally a big fan of pears, but I got some from a neighbor so thought I'd see if he'd like one that didn't have to go through shipping, as the texture is normally his main complaint. The report that night was that the pear had great flavor, but a tough skin, and the apple had good texture, but little flavor. I wasn't surprised about the apple, as local apples are not quite in season here (almost!!) and this was a non-organic impulse buy the other day.

Carrot sticks are a really easy option for including a vegetable in a lunchbox. We buy organic carrots that have lots of great carroty flavor and a nice crunch. I was amazed the first time we bought them from our local store, Market of Choice, and discovered how different these were from the giant woody orange sticks we had been eating. I have to admit that the first purchase was based entirely on the fact that the cute tops were still on, but we've never gone back to non-organic with this item, as we have with some things that have a big price difference but not much of a taste difference.

The final item in this lunch was a treat. This time, I chose a half-filled bag of Kettle Chips to finish off the lunchbox. I packed it all inside Average's Nintendo lunchbox (which he loves).

There you have it: our cheap, green, (mostly) healthy lunchbox! The only things missing were a drink and a bit more protein. I mentioned this to Average and he said he'd just walk over to the mini-mart and get a soda and some beef jerky, and that way he'd be able to get out of the shop for a few minutes. As the manager of a bicycle shop, he doesn't have much time for lunch and has gotten sick of all of the places with quick food options nearby, but he still likes to leave the shop briefly to clear his head and get a break. So, having most of the food come from home saves money and is generally healthier, but needing just one more thing gives him a great excuse to get away.

If I had been making this lunch for myself, I probably would have included either the stuffed pepper, or the sandwich, but not both, and would have made sure to have a calcium-rich item in there, like a yogurt. If it was for a child, I would have cut down the total size even more, and included only a small baggie of chips.

Making a lunch at home is, in most cases, both cheaper and greener than buying a lunch out, so when I'm working I aim to pack a lunch about 50-75% of the time. Buying food items in bulk is probably the main thing that helps with the cost and makes this the greener option, so trying to minimize the amount of disposable wrapping that I use is important for maintaining the environmentally-friendly aspect. I find myself relying on plastic baggies more than I'd like, and am slowing trying to build up a store of reusable glass containers with lids (see the stuffed pepper). Sometimes I'll wrap a fruit or veggie in a cloth napkin instead of plastic, and since I don't have a lunchbox for myself, last year I would often use the same non-recyclable bag from a clothing store (why not recyclable, Banana Republic?) for a week or two before tossing it.

What are your favorite lunchbox lunches? Any suggestions for ways to spice up my husband's lunch?

The Purple Lunchbox

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Follow-up follow-up travel post; Or, Please check for all personal belongings before leaving the plane

A drawing of the interior of our first plane, on the back of a napkin, by Average

There are other stories from our cross-country trip that I didn't mention in my earlier posts, as Average pointed out in his comment. Some may be worthy of sharing, so I'm going to write and post a few. Here is the first one:

On the way to our vacation destination, our last flight is on a tiny commuter plane. Average and I are seated in the front row on the side with two seats (I think there's a bathroom in front of us), and therefore have no underseat storage place for our extra large bag full of all of sweet pea's clothes and diapers for the entire week. I assure you, it did meet the rules for carry-on, but there was no way it would fit in that tiny overhead storage compartment. I'm doing my best to stuff it up there anyway, when the teenager in the seat across the aisle from us offers to stow it under the seat in front of her. This is the kindness of strangers! We are very grateful, because we already had to remove items from the outer pockets of our other, smaller, carry-on backpack to get it to fit in the overhead storage. Also, we are the next to last people on the plane so feeling a little awkward – like our bag stowage is being watched by the entire plane full of people and we might very well delay the takeoff of this plane. (The last to board was actually my brother who was in the bathroom when we discovered our plane was already boarding.) The flight does still take off earlier than scheduled once we are all safely on board. We feel relieved, and we have an uneventful trip. However, being the front row puts psychological pressure on Average and me and so the instant the fasten seat belt signs are off after landing, we grab everything and rush off the plane because we really really don't want to be those people holding everyone else up from exiting. So, we walk down to the baggage claim area, feeling so glad that we finally made it, and wait for the bags to come to the carousel. While waiting, Average notices that the girl who let us use her under-the-seat storage area for our giant bag has developed a nosebleed. He grabs a pre-fold diaper (clean, obviously) from our diaper bag, and hands it to her to sop up her blood. He tells her to please keep it and thanks again. My husband is also a kind person. So we eventually collect our bags, and start to cross the street to the parking garage to pick up the rental car. Suddenly, Average stops and curses. "What?" I ask. "Where's the camera?" he says, with a very worried look on his face. We are standing in the middle of the crosswalk at this point. We quickly decide it would be best to get out of the crosswalk and return to the baggage area to discuss this. After just a few brief words, we realize that the camera is still in the pocket on the wall in front of us on the airplane. It was one of those outer pocket items I removed from the bag to make it more malleable for storage bin stuffage. We have passed through the security area and there is no way to get back through without a ticket, and there are no flights leaving at this hour from this little airport anyway, so there is not even anyone there to accept or deny us entrance. There is one airport employee in the area, and he has already accumulated a line behind his desk, snaking out from his office into the baggage area, as apparently the airline misplaced a lot of baggage on this flight. Average waits in line, slowly growing more panicked, while I change sweet pea's diaper on the floor and try to keep her happy by nursing and playing. My dad and brother make themselves useful and gather our bags and take them to the rental car while Average and I wait, and wait, and wait. He finally gets to the front of the line but is told that the actual baggage problems take precedence so he will have to wait even longer. It is late and we are tired and thinking we won't be able to take photos on this trip where sweet pea meets her great-grandparents for the first time and we sight-see and party with our extended family. Oh, the anxiety. Eventually, after some more interminable waiting, someone from the airline brings the camera to us and we are SO RELIEVED to have not lost our precious waterproof, shock resistant, freeze proof, digital camera that Average spent a fortune on a few years ago. Phew!!

The morals of the story are that karma is real and we should all be kind; that you really should check all around you including the pockets in front of you before you leave an airplane, as they always mention in those final announcements; that you shouldn't let the imagined annoyance of complete strangers make you rush; and finally, that stuffage is not a real word but it should be.

Oh, and this all happened after I left a sweater on the first plane that we took, and also got that back after asking at the gate. AND my brother forgot he had a knife in his pocket at the security gate and had to ship his knife back to himself. Yes, as a family we do lose things a lot. I guess this isn't really related to parenthood because this is what my life was like before having a baby, and it's not related to healthy or green living either, so I'm branching out of my topic areas here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cloth kleenex

In my previous post I wrote about the other things around our house that have switched to reusable rather than disposable, in addition to diapers. In comments, Ann reminded me that of course tissues can be reusable too. I had two pair of pajama pants, totally worn out in the seams around the butt, that were ready to be re-purposed. So this weekend I went ahead and cut them up, folded them kleenex-box style, and put them into an empty box. This way they pull out one after the other just like paper tissues! I am quite proud of myself. It took about 30 minutes to do the cutting and folding, total, with a few breaks for baby tending. I didn't serge or stitch the edges, so will see how they hold up after a washing and might have to do that later. The thing that makes me extra excited about using my old pjs, besides not having to buy fabric, is that these were both super worn, so already very soft and thin, just how I like my tissues. In the past, I've gotten annoyed with the bulk of handkerchiefs bought new (too big to comfortably stuff in my pocket), and felt like it was wasteful to wash that whole huge square of fabric after just a couple uses, but like it was also gross to keep using it when there were booger surprises inside. I made my tissues the width of one side of a leg of the pjs, which is - o happy coincidence - about the same size as a regular square of kleenex, and smaller than a typical handkerchief. The number of squares I got (about 36) seems like it would make it through a few days of a bad cold, or a month of light use. I also saved the elastic, which seemed to be in fine shape. What do you think of my handiwork?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

You can re-use that?!?

cloth napkin

dish towels


mama cloth

We all know that I am a cloth diaper evangelist. Well, I have been thinking, since I love cloth diapers, are there other disposable items I'm using that could easily be replaced with a better, re-usable alternative? Hmm. A short list of the obvious:
In my experience, the cloth versions of these all work better, are more attractive, and are healthier than the disposable alternative. And that is BESIDES the fact that they are all obviously better for the environment! (See here for or here for some explanations of why.) Yet, companies keep on coming out with more and more throw-away products. There definitely are disposable things that I like to use, and probably will continue to do so, such as... Well, I actually can't think of any good examples right now. But I'm not going to stop buying groceries at a grocery store, for now, so let's say, the packages some of my food comes in would be one thing I dispose of after use. However, when I can find an easy, environmentally sound alternative I am trying to switch - I am already using the cloth versions of the items on the list above. In addition, I am really excited about using vinegar and baking soda instead of nasty chemicals for cleaning lots of stuff around the house, including my hair (this will be a future post topic). I recently used old diapers and a vinegar/water solution to clean the windows and it worked great! Besides thinking about re-usable items, I am also thinking about things that I don't want to touch sweet pea's sensitive skin.

Does anyone have any great ideas for other disposable items we could replace with re-usable?

Oh, and yes there are people out there using cloth instead of toilet paper. I’m not there yet, but wouldn’t totally rule it out. Have any of you tried this?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Not quite easy, but something like it

So, in my previous post I may have used some phrases like "quite easy" and "went wonderfully." I have been thinking about my wording and realized that the real experience might not have been accurately expressed. It's just that compared to my worries, and compared to daily life with a baby, it wasn't bad.

Everything in life is relative, and life with a baby changes constantly because your baby is constantly changing. When sweet pea was maybe 6-8 weeks old, and slept for 6 hours straight for the first time in her life, that seemed like the easiest night ever! Then she slept for 8 hours, then 10 at around 4 months, and I was like "hey this parenting thing is a breeze! We're sleeping!" Then she started waking up at night again, and even though I am getting more total sleep than during the 6 hours straight time, it feels a little harder.

To be honest and fair, here are some of the hard times that we had on our trip:

  • On the drive back from a day of sightseeing, with about an hour left to go in the car, sweet pea started fussing. I was sitting next to her in the back seat, and started making noises to entertain her. She was happy as long as I was excitedly interacting with her. So, for the next 30 minutes or so, I played peek-a-boo, made fart noises, tickled toes, and shook my head around in ever-increasing intensity until I was loopy and tired. Every time I stopped for an instant, she would make a fussy, unhappy noise. I thought, maybe she's tired and I'm just keeping her awake with all this playing, and she'll fall asleep if I sing or whisper to her instead. Wrong. We had to stop the car and get her out twice because the crying got so bad. She was happy out of the car, crying once back in her car seat. Ouch.

  • The first night she woke up crying and I picked her up in total darkness, and (I think) tried to latch her on to nurse with her head and body facing away from me. She just screamed. I set her back down and turned the light on and it took maybe an hour of myself and Average comforting her before she fell back asleep. The room was darker than our bedroom at home, and she'd had a long day of traveling, and then I picked her up weird, are my theories about why.

  • Then of course there was the crying jag on the airplane home.

As someone who is used to life with a baby, with occasional crying part of normal existence, these didn't really stand out to me until I stepped back and tried to view the trip with a more objective, not-a-parent-to-an-infant viewpoint.

I had had fears that the flight over would be one non-stop scream-fest, that sweet pea wouldn't be happy letting my relatives hold her, that she would wake up every hour at night, that we would get poop on my relatives' furniture, that we would be dropping things while running through the airport late for our flight and forget/lose some important baby care items, that I would get asked to leave the plane for breastfeeding in public (I read about this happening to someone!), or that basically it would be stressful and uncomfortable to be toting a baby along on a cross-country trip and to a family reunion and tourist attractions. None of these fears came true, and life seemed about as easy as normal, but maybe even easier because there were more people to hold and play with her. So, like I said, everything is relative. I hope this clarifies what I meant by "quite easy." Flying with a baby was harder than flying without a baby, but not any harder than the rest of my life with a baby.

Flying with a baby

Last week we took a trip across the country, by car and airplane. This was sweet pea's first flight. We went for a family reunion and had a fabulous time seeing everyone and showing off our baby. Everything went wonderfully, until the flight home when she cried for about an hour straight. Luckily the plane was filled with families so hopefully most people didn't hate us and had some sympathy instead. I don't know if it was the pressure change, or too much time on laps in one place, or the dry yucky air, but she was not happy. She did finally fall asleep, and then also slept for most of the 2+ hour drive home from the airport, luckily! The time change seems to be totally fine, coming west. Now we have our first cross-country trip under our belts and I feel much more confident.

Flying with a baby was really quite easy (except for the crying part). The airlines will check a car seat for no charge, even when they charge for everything else. They even give you a plastic bag to put the car seat in so it doesn't get damaged. Also, you can wheel your baby in a folding stroller right up to your gate, and they will stow the stroller for you and then bring it right back out when you arrive at your destination. I faintly recall seeing things like this before, but didn't pay much attention because it didn't apply to me. On this trip, we saw lots and lots of babies in the airports. This was very comforting for me to see because I felt like the other people would know how to handle things and I could just follow along and learn the ropes of airline travel with an infant. One of the coolest things we saw for traveling with children (toddlers and kids up to 100 pounds) were Trunkis, these wheeled carry-on suitcases that kids can ride on! Fun and practical!

Although checking bags costs money now, we discovered it is still worth it if you have a layover anywhere. One more bag to carry around can get pretty annoying when you also have a baby and a diaper bag. We only checked one bag between us on the flight over, but checked two on the flight back. In terms of necessities for the day of traveling, I went with enough diapers for a change every 2 hours, plus one extra for unexpected spills, a dirty/wet bag, two extra outfits, one sweater, a light blanket, two toys, three burp cloths, and three washcloths. (These were the things in the diaper bag, excluding the backpack we brought with clothes, etc. for the week.) This served us fine. Although I had the birth certificate on my list of things to pack (I saw it recommended on other people's web sites), I couldn't find it the night before, so didn't bring it, and no one ever asked us a thing about who sweet pea was. Also on my list but not in my bag was a changing pad. I did miss that a little, for obvious reasons, but we made do with an extra diaper or cloth, or paper towels, or a lap. I didn't bring a nursing cover and it was fine. I nursed in public in airports, on airplanes, in restaurants, and at tourist sites and never got a comment or felt a rude look. The last item on my list that I didn't bring and didn't miss was the breast pump and bottles. Sweet pea was with me almost the entire time and I always just nursed her as needed. So, overall a successful packing experience! The only things I forgot or discarded last minute turned out to be things we didn't need after all. My aunt kept remarking that it was amazing how little we brought with us, and how little it seemed that we needed. With an attached, breastfed baby, you don't really need much - no pacifiers, bottles, special seats, or play pens for this baby-on-the-go. Although I do see how all of those things are useful at times, for a trip like this with lots of welcoming arms to hold the baby, we didn't find we really missed any of the baby accoutrement we left at home.

Yippee! Where shall we go next?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Onion graphic - what's ruining our gardens

I love The Onion!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lessons in gardening

It is August of our first summer of gardening. I don't really count the occasional vegetable I was able to coax out of the clay-ey soil at our old rental house as real gardening. By this time in past years the plants would be next to dead, and the plot would be full of weeds. I always gave up somewhere around halfway through the summer, usually when I went out of town for a few days, then came back and was busy for a while, so neglected the plants for two or so weeks, and then it all looked like too much work to get things back to a manageable, healthy, state. So, it is a huge accomplishment to have made it to August with all of our plants (pretty much) still alive and producing. Being out of town for the past week could have been a big hardship for our garden, but it has come through nicely, in my opinion, with the aid of our lovely house-sitter.

The worst part of being gone from our garden is the over-sized unappetizing vegetables. You saw what happened with the zucchinis last time I didn't pick for just two days.... I believe our house-sitter did some picking, but maybe didn't know all the secret places the cucumbers and zucchinis like to hide. So tonight when I went out there to see what I could see, I found several GIANT sized pickling cucumbers, too big even for their own pint jar (pictured above), and a couple more humongous zucchinis. The zucchinis we are using, grating them up and freezing for future use in breads, but I haven't been able to find anything that you can do with too-big cucumbers. Any ideas? Some of the beans and snap peas were over-sized, but there were enough normal ripe ones to make a good side dish with dinner tonight, along with some young onion. The strawberries are doing well, and the corn is looking great! We see lots of tassels, some getting close to eating size. The peppers continue to produce a ton, so Average is making two more batches of pepper jelly tonight. Our three tomato plants are also doing well. Unfortunately, the lettuce has gone to seed, probably started even before we left on our trip.

All in all, this summer has provided a great gardening experience, with many lessons learned from the successes and mistakes along the way.

  • Good soil makes an enormous difference in how well the plants grow.

  • Actually following the directions on seed packets really helps.

  • A big square is a bad shape for a raised garden bed - how do you access the middle?

  • Pick often.

  • Mulching is helpful. Grass clippings work fine.

  • Fewer than 3 zucchini plants is more than enough. Do not plant more than 6 as we did, because zucchinis go crazy!

  • Buy a sprinkler that sprays the right size for your garden. We had a rectangle sprinkler most of the summer that would waste water by spraying where we didn't want, and get stuck in one position if the water pressure lowered, like when you take a shower or start some laundry.

  • Give ample space for each plant. I didn't really realize how much this should be until this year, when my plants actually grew to normal size. Now we have a jungle.

  • Some things are best planted in succession: lettuce, broccoli, onions, for example.

  • Others do fine all planted at the same time, like: corn, beans, peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Choose which to succession plant depending on which are ever-bearing, and how many you plan to eat or preserve at one time.

  • Try not to plan any long summer vacations at the peak of your growing season. If you do, get someone to stay at your house who can water and pick for you, or ask your neighbors to help out in exchange for free produce.

Maybe most people already know these things, but, for me at least, there is a big difference between knowing what is recommended, and actually experiencing the effects yourself. Hopefully we will just build on our successes (the new soil in raised beds, transplanting starts from seeds, good watering), and be able to plan better with the yet-to-be-built rectangular beds next year. And maybe by then sweet pea will be able to help me water!

Wow, we really need to weed-whack around the beds. They are hidden by the tall grass! Can you believe how tall the corn is?! The Busch in the picture is for the slugs, not for us, in case you were wondering.

I have another big post to publish soon about our trip, flying with a baby, and the results of my packing list, so stay tuned!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Follow-up to my previous post.
Reasons why this may not be a good blog name:

  1. It’s too long!

  2. It’s silly

  3. It doesn’t clearly describe what this blog is about

Hmm, so which is it? A bad name or a good one? You tell me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Naming of things

So, in my “First Post” I said that I picked the name of my blog randomly from a list I’d brainstormed. That’s not quite true. I actually made a long list of possible names, and then finally came up with one that I liked, and went with it. While it was not exactly a random choice, I didn’t put massive amounts of time into thinking it through.

Now that I’ve committed to it I think I really do like it. (If I don’t, I can always start a new one, right? It only took about 5 minutes to set this up.) The reasons I think this name works for me:

  1. It has my new nickname, and my daughter’s top nickname

  2. It expresses the idea that this is something that I’m creating, or “making”

  3. My daughter does have to be included in this because much of what I plan to write about is inspired by her, and she has to give me the time to write for it for it to work

  4. It somewhat obscures my identity for public readers who don’t know me and might want to someday look me up and stalk me and my family (that’s assuming that I do someday have public readers)

  5. It sounds silly and somewhat child-like in syntax, reminding me of how little kids talk about things. Since a large part (I expect) of my writing is related to being a parent this is the tone I’m going for.

My husband, who from now on shall be know as Average, wasn’t that impressed with the name, but I think it’s growing on him.

How does one choose a name for anything? It seems like it could be something that could cause a lot of stress and deliberation, although that’s not really the way we do anything (my husband and I, that is). For example, our daughter’s name (not actually sweet pea) was something that Average just chose at random during a bridal shower game, years before she was conceived, and it stuck. When we bought our house, we hadn’t looked at properties for months, then saw an ad for this one in the paper and looked at it that day, decided to make an offer that night. Same with the first time we moved into a rental, same with buying our furniture (the nice stuff from actual stores that is), same with buying our car, choosing our midwives, and I could go on. The point of this is, I guess, that we are the kind of people who feel like we know when we find the right thing, and I’m hoping I’ve done that with this blog name.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Earning a living on poopy diapers

This is a follow-up to my post on cloth diapering. For those of you who read that one, you may be wondering why I chose to launder my own instead of using a diaper service, as many people suggested.

You can find a diaper service in most cities in the U.S. I am very glad they exist because I think they get some people to try out the cloth lifestyle who otherwise would be too intimidated, or who hate doing laundry, or just want to make things easier on themselves. These are all totally reasonable reasons to use a service. I have heard other people say that the diaper service was such a blessing, and I don't blame or look down upon them. Personally, however, I prefer washing my own rather than paying someone else. Ready for another list?

The reasons I wash my own instead of helping someone else earn a living on poopy diapers:

  • I control the substances used on my diapers. Some diaper services use bleach, which has environmental drawbacks, and some babies have bleach or laundry detergent sensitivities. If my baby gets a rash, I know exactly what has been applied to her diapers, and can easily alter it on the next cycle of wash. For instance, we tried using a cloth diaper-safe fabric softener for a while, but it made sweet pea rashy so I quit.

  • I can travel with my diapers. Diaper services usually come by once a week and you get as many clean diapers as you put out dirty. If you are out of town, there is scheduling to be done, and that is one more hassle for travel that I wouldn't relish. (Aside - I anticipate a response about the fact that most people don't take long trips with newborn babies anyway. Good point.)

  • I can use the same diapers on another baby, or sell them when I'm done. This makes using cloth diapers even MORE economical.

  • A diaper service is one more bill to pay.

  • I can try out all sorts of cute prints and styles of diapers, which is ever so much fun! Diaper services use prefolds, so you can have fun with covers, but not as much as with fitteds, pockets, and AIOS (explanation of diaper types).

That's all for now.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

We hope you like jammin' too

Last week my husband and I, and a good friend, made a lot of jam. We picked the fruits and berries ourselves, and stayed up late two nights to get everything properly processed. Now we have stacks of cute jars to use all year and give as gifts for any occasion. For this post, I decided to write the six steps to a fun and successful jam-making experience.

  1. Pickin' Find a local u-pick farm, a neighborhood berry patch (blackberries grow in abandoned lots and along alleys all over the Pacific NorthWest), or grow your own. I had a hard time figuring out where to go at first, but found a helpful website. My friend and I picked cherries for less than two hours, and got over 30 pounds of cherries! Then we had to pit them all, ugh. Picking is very enjoyable when you're chatting with a friend, and taking time to appreciate the beautiful bounty around you. We also made pepper jelly with peppers that we grew, which is extra satisfying.

  2. Preparin' Get your fruits ready to cook. For cherries or anything with a large seed or pit, that means lots of time staining your hands fruity-colored and giving yourself carpal tunnel syndrome. It was fun for the first hour or so. Then I excused myself from the drudgery to nurse sweet pea, and my husband and friend completed the task. Yes, caring for a baby is a great excuse to get out of other boring work. The easiest berry that we jammed was raspberry, and blueberry was a close second. For these, all you need to do is wash them and make sure there are no stems, flowers, or leaves in the bowl. Be sure to eat as many fruits and berries as you can at this stage!

  3. Cookin' This is the part that requires a recipe, for most normal humans (although after the third batch I think my husband is ready to do some experimenting). We used a few different recipes, found at and in the Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving. You'll need a heavy-bottom pan, a masher or possibly a food processor, depending on the fruit, and usually sugar, lemon juice, and pectin. We used powdered pectin for the cherry jam and no pectin for the blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry jams. You might also want to add spices for more exciting flavor. This step is basically where you throw everything in a big pot and boil it for a while. We found that it was important to get the mixture's temp. up to 220, which is jelly stage according to my husband's thermometer. Cook exactly as the recipe states to ensure good "gelling."

  4. Cannin' and Processin' For this stage, you need hot jars, hot lids, and a huge pot of boiling (or nearly boiling) water. Pour the jam into the jars, leaving the required head space (per the recipe), put the lids on, and drop (or gently set) the full jars into the big pot. Boil for the set time, and remove to cool. As the jars cool you should hear the metal lid of each one pop as it seals. Let them sit for 12-24 hours, then check the lids for a good seal.

  5. Labelin' After the jars have cooled, label each one with they type of jam inside and the month and year made. You could also add items of interest such as who made the jam, where the fruits or berries came from, ingredients, and anything interesting you or your jam gift recipients might want to know. For instance, our blueberry-strawberry jam is made from organically-grown berries, so I plan to include that on the label.

  6. Eatin' and Giftin' Jam that has been processed correctly can be stored for a year in a cool dark place, but should be refrigerated once opened. Enjoying the "fruits" of your labor is the best part. My husband is super excited that we don't have to buy any expensive jam this year, and I have already gifted a few jars to friends who were thrilled to get a quality home-made food product.

Of course, I missed a step here, Cleanin', but hopefully you can find someone else to do that for you as it is not part of the fun.

I am just getting started on my home food preservation journey, and have learned a lot from my husband's mother, and from watching my own mother as a child. If you don't have a good personal resource, the National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great source of canning information.