Sunday, December 26, 2010

Work in progress: deodorant

In my quest to rid myself of chemical-laden beauty and skincare products, I have arrived at deodorant.  I've been a Degree user for years, and have recently run out of that and switched to Tom's of Maine Supposedly 24 Hour Odor Protection.  I'm unimpressed.  I smell horrible at the end of the day and it's goopy/sticky when I put it on.  Gross.

I'm just starting to research homemade deodorant, and thought I'd share.  Those of you who are looking for a finished product/recipe sort of post, this is definitely not it!

In every deodorant recipe I've seen, there are two key ingredients - baking soda and cornstarch or arrowroot.  The baking soda is, strictly speaking, the deodorant.  The cornstarch or arrowroot serves two purposes - 1) they can act as a bit of an antiperspirant because of absorbency (I gather that cornstarch works better, but that it can be irritating to some people's skin) and 2) to dilute the baking soda, which is a weak base and can irritate skin.

The big differences from recipe to recipe are the ratio of those two ingredients, what (if anything) is used to deliver those two ingredients to one's armpit, and whether it is scented with essential oils.

The carrier and the essential oils can help with deodorizing (because they can be antibacterial) and/or with skin conditioning.

I think I am going to go with the coconut oil as a base because I keep it around anyway.  My concerns with coconut oil are staining (I'll need to be sure it has absorbed before I put my shirt on, because it definitely does leave oil stains otherwise) and the fact that it liquifies at 75 degrees - I'll have to keep my deodorant in the fridge all summer!

Here are two recipes I've found that use coconut oil (and a stick deodorant container):  one, two 

The other base I've seen is shea and cocoa butters, and those are used in a jar:  one, two

There is the option of using no base, no scents, no nothing extra (as done here), but I envision that getting messy and my underarms getting caked with the stuff because I have no sense of how much to use and would inevitably use more than needed!

On coconut oil, I feel obliged to tell you that I've recently finished reading a book of natural beauty products that included information about all of the ingredients, and I'm apparently using very subpar coconut oil.  The good stuff (organic, extra virgin, can't remember what else because I don't have the book handy - I'll post all this another time!) should have a faint coconut smell (mine is odorless) and is much better all around.

So maybe I'll try making deodorant with my subpar coconut oil so I can finish the vat and buy the good stuff!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I write elsewhere...

I am a regular contributor to the BABS Blog.  I can't currently put into words what makes me think certain posts/topics belong on that blog and which belong here.  I guess there I'm reaching out specifically to mothers and mothers-to-be, but I know that is also who largely makes up my readership here (though I have also LOVED that many people who are not parents have read and commented!).

Anyhow, I don't intend to do this often, but I thought I'd link you to my most recent post on the BABS Blog, and you can choose to follow that blog and read my at-least-once-a-month posts there.

If you're friends with me on Facebook, I will continue linking the BABS posts there.  If you would like some other way to know when I write for BABS, please let me know.  The only way I can think to easily facilitate that without linking everything here or depending on all of you being my personal Facebook friends (which I know you aren't!), is to start a Facebook page for this blog?  Anyway, I welcome your input!

I will be writing about my pregnancy and birth experiences over on the BABS Blog - I will probably talk about them through a different lens over here, but I have so much other stuff I'd like to discuss on this blog!

Without further ado, here is my latest post, High Risk for Preeclampsia:  Just the beginning of my story

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review: Sleeping With Your Baby

This is a great book for anyone debating where their baby should sleep, or wanting to know how to make bedsharing safest.  It could also be given to family members who are balking at bedsharing or roomsharing.  It's a quick and straightforward read - the meat of the book is less than 100 pages!

Having already bedshared with a baby, I read it mainly because I was interested in whether there was some way to make it safe (or possible...) to nurse Squeak while I snuggle Bean down for a nap, or nurse both boys while I lay down, etc.  No such luck - and one of the safety tips is that you need to be sure an older child won't be able to crawl in bed with you while you're asleep with a baby.

However, I really appreciated the tone of this book.  It wasn't insisting that babies MUST be sleeping in the same bed as their mothers, but saying that bedsharing was a safe option.  It wasn't saying every mother SHOULD want to sleep with her baby, but that those who do could and should follow guidelines to ensure the baby's safety.

Sleeping With Your Baby isn't a book that I think would make anyone defensive who doesn't co-sleep, as McKenna basically says that not being comfortable with it is a reason not to do it.  For that reason (and it's length and straightforwardness), I think it would be a great book to hand to anyone who doubts your decision to sleep with your baby.   If anything, it is a little defensive on the side of the co-sleeper because he talks quite a bit about the indictments of bedsharing by the media and even legal entities.

This book is a manual on how to bedshare safely, and a little bit about how babies and mothers are designed to breastfeed and bedshare.  It is not about how to get better or more sleep, how to get your baby/toddler/child out of your bed, or what bedsharing might look like at various ages.

If you're looking for help getting more sleep for yourself in the family bed, tips and tricks for getting your child our of your bed, or for comfort in the stories of other bedsharing families, I'd recommend Good Nights.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Something has changed...

While I was pregnant with Squeak, I worked out regularly right up until I went on bedrest (at about 31 weeks).  I had been envisioning myself walking or working out on the elliptical daily right up until delivery - I really hoped that it would keep me off bedrest longer (or entirely) and make delivery and recovery easier.

Right before I got pregnant, I had also found a running moms group online and several of us found ourselves pregnant with October 2010 due dates.  So I had a whole lot of like-minded friends all talking enthusiastically about when we were going to run our first postpartum races!  And then I read Born to Run.  I found myself excited about running like I hadn't been in awhile.

I've officially re-discovered a love of running, and this time it has come with a sense of adventure.  It's a chance to get away from the literal noise of my life (there is no quiet with a toddler/preschooler and a baby!) and to come back with a sense of accomplishment and a sense that I've done something for myself and for my family.  I run without music or an iPod or anything.  I hear my own thoughts (sometimes the only chance I get!) and enjoy my own company.

It's divine.

As someone who hated running and really anything that felt remotely like a competitive sport as a child (last to be picked in gym class, thankyouverymuch!), and having grown up in the desert and complained about how cold it was, I would never have been picked Most Likely to Run in the Snow.  Heck, a year ago I don't think I would have run in the snow...

Today it was 23 degrees and snowing when it came time for my run.  It was snowing pretty hard, actually.  Huge white flakes that gathered on my eyelashes.  I went out anyway.  I went out giddy with excitement.  Could I do this?  Or am I too much of a baby?

I went out dressed in the garb pictured above and thought for a moment that I was too much of a baby.  My legs were just too cold and I was positive I wouldn't be able to get them to turn over long enough to warm them up.  I came back in and grabbed my cheap, old, damaged pair of Gap wind pants.

And then I ran.

What caused me to end my work-out a little early was that my toes and fingers were numb, while the rest of me was sweating.  Almost all of me felt good, but I didn't think it was a good idea to keep going with numb extremities.

As I neared home, I ran up a hill and noted that the sidewalks were now covered in just enough snow to make them slightly slippery - another indicator it was time to come home.

I'm getting warm running gear for Christmas - specifically wool running socks and a great pair of gloves that will solve today's problem.

I'm psyched.  This is a challenge I can conquer!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Commercialism Conundrum

You may have gathered by now, from two posts dealing with marketing and specifically marketing to kids, that it's one of my biggest concerns as a parent and pet peeves as a citizen.

I try to be realistic.  I'm raising kids in the United States of America of the 21st century; there is just no way to keep them from unhealthy foods, media, advertising, and commercialism.  And it wouldn't be healthy or fair for them if I did keep them from learning about these things.  They are, after all, 21st-century Americans and will require at least a little fodder for small-talk.

I'm constantly asking myself what I would/should/could compromise on, and just how much bending constitutes being flexible and realistic versus rolling over, belly-up, saying "fine!  Have your way with them!  I just want a nap!"

I had one such moment at the pediatrician's office this past week.  What happened is such a small problem, but the potential fix is also so small and would make me feel so. much. better. One less place to worry about my child being primed as a target for advertising?  What a load off!  Not to mention making it easier to adhere to some of the very suggestions about food and media that pediatricians are making to all of us parents!

So, here it is, the letter I've written to the big pediatric practice in town:

Dear [Person I Really Hope Doesn't Toss This Letter Before Reading it...],

I brought my two-month-old for his well-baby visit today with my 2.5-year-old in tow. At the end of the visit, my older son was offered a sticker.  The woman giving him the sticker said “boy” (to herself) while determining my son’s options for stickers and then gave him the options of Elmo or Spiderman.  I wanted to express my concern over two aspects of this occurrence. 

First, that these stickers are considered gender-specific.  Why can my son not choose from certain stickers because he is a boy? He didn’t really care what was on the sticker – only that it was sticky!

Second, I am bothered that he only had licensed characters to choose from – and that licensed characters were an option at all. Familiarizing kids with these characters (my son is only familiar with them through marketing, toys, and books that he sees elsewhere – we don’t watch television) opens them up to so much marketing – and it’s mostly marketing of things that are not good for them like junk food and toys that inhibit imaginative play!

This is such a simple and relatively small thing, but it is also a very simple fix. Just as I hope the young girls in the practice got to take home the small cars my son once did, I want my son to have the option of choosing a shiny pink sticker if that’s what he wants. And stickers with butterflies, dinosaurs, geometric designs, etc are just as enticing as Elmo, Spiderman, Dora, Shrek, or any of the other numerous licensed characters out there also selling toys, books, backpacks, bedding, and junk food.

Also, I hope this policy will be extended to any toys, books, band-aids and anything else that is distributed to kids in your practice. They are so bombarded with marketing and expectations of them based on their gender – and from such a young age! Please make [your practice] a marketing-free zone for our kids!

["That" Mom]

Top Eleven Tandem Nursing Questions

My post about tandem nursing is, by a fair margin, my most-viewed post.  So I thought I'd answer some questions I've been asked, and I'll soon write a follow-up post that's a bit more narrative.  These are in a sort of chronological order from early pregnancy to late to birth to shortly after.  They're compiled fom my memory of what people have asked me via email and in person.

All answers are based on my personal experience.  By my understanding, there is a very broad range of both physiological and emotional responses to nursing during pregnancy and tandem nursing.

1. just kept making milk through pregnancy?

Nope, not exactly.  I couldn't say when my milk disappeared, but it was sometime around the middle of my pregnancy.  Bean didn't seem to be swallowing anymore, and I couldn't stand to nurse him often or for long.  That improved whenever it was that I started producing colostrum.  Again, I couldn't say when that was exactly, but I think it was early in my third trimester.  I had thought the time when I had very little or no milk was the most likely time he would wean on his own or as a result of my limiting him....but obviously that didn't happen!

2.  Doesn't nursing during pregnancy cause pre-term labor?

I have been asked this question (and, actually, told that it's a fact) by medical professionals who were also nursing mothers (note: plural!).  There is a very common sense reason that this is thought to be a potential problem:  oxytocin.  Oxytocin has a role in every step of the reproductive process.  It is released during female orgasm;  it is what causes labor contractions; it is released during breastfeeding. It's actually released just from snuggling.  It's powerful stuff!  So, the concern is that breastfeeding will release oxytocin and cause labor contractions.

For those who are high-risk for pre-term labor, it is a definite concern.  And I did sometimes have "nursing contractions," but they were not even as noticeable or as long as many Braxton-Hicks contractions I had.  Heck, at the end I was so desperate that not only did I nurse Bean but I hooked myself up to a pump to try to get labor going!  And I didn't have a single contraction.

Some science:  It appears (and this I'm recollecting from Adventures in Tandem Nursing) that the uterus's oxytocin receptors aren't really all that receptive until you're about term!

3.  What about nipple tenderness during pregnancy?

I definitely experienced this, and at times I thought it would lead to Bean's weaning because I was limiting his frequency and duration of nursings.   I had soreness before I could even get a positive pregnancy test, but it was worst at night (one of several reasons I night weaned Bean petty early on).  Toward the end I was counting to three or ten for every feeding, or I was only singing one song or even one verse.  This got better when my milk came in - though I still struggle sometimes just because of Squeaks sometimes-painful nursing challenges.

4.  What about colostrum ("first milk")?  Did you just never make colostrum for Squeak? 

I started making colostrum in my third trimester, so Squeak definitely got some.  My understanding on this is that your milk often comes in earlier with subsequent children, plus I had no interventions this time (some of which could delay milk coming in).  Amount of nursing, as far as I understand, doesn't really bring your milk in sooner, as the hormonal shift that brings about production of mature milk is triggered by the detachment of the placenta.  In any case, my milk did come in at least 24 hours earlier than with Bean, possibly a full 48 hours (it was hard to say because I didn't get so engorged this time!  (And, of course, any time I'm talking about what triggers human lactation, I must refer you here.)

5.  Do you make enough for both kids?

And then some!  A metric:  by two months old, Squeak has gained 1lb 6oz more than Bean had at two months.  So, Squeak is gaining faster than Bean did.  I also have at least 30oz in the freezer.  "Enough" is not an issue!

6.  Isn't the toddler "stealing" from the newborn? 

Actually, given the nursing struggles we've had, it's likely that Bean is doing all the work for Squeak in terms of maintaining my supply.  Squeak just has to show up and swallow.  In fact, to really make Squeak work and help him learn to nurse effectively and efficiently, I have to either pump or nurse Bean first.  I really just make plenty of milk!

7.  Any jealousy over nursing?

Though I know moms whose older child had a hard time sharing nursing with their new sibling, we've had not a single issue of the sort.  If I'd only been nursing the baby, I think Bean would have been jealous.  Bean is very sweet to Squeak and is even usually ok if I kick him off my lap but keep nursing Squeak.  If squeak falls off (which happens all too often - ugh), Bean will gently help him back on mimicking what I do - and he does that whether he's also nursing or whether he's just standing nearby.  So no jealousy around that.  Bean just wants Squeak's wrist rattles and stuffed animals!

8.  Don't you just want your body back?

Sort of.  I often want some personal space back, for sure!  Bean is climbing all over me, jumping off the couch as I'm nursing the baby right next to him, wrestling his dad, looking like he's about to topple the heavy rocking recliner while standing in it, roaring like a dinosaur as he attacks my leg (and I'm saying "pretend bites, please!") and generally doing all he can to make my hair go gray. Invite him for a nurse and get him to sit still and shut up?  Yes.  And I usually can get him to snuggle sweetly afterwards.  It feels to me like reclaiming space, if only because I get to hear myself think!

9.  How often does Bean nurse?

I have no idea.  I don't know how often Squeak nurses either.  I hardly remember how often I've eaten today.  Everyone's alive and only slightly traumatized?  Everyone's peeing and pooping and gaining (or in my case losing) weight as expected?  We're good!

10.  How did you prepare yourself for nursing through pregnancy and for tandem nursing?

Mainly, I read Adventures in Tandem Nursing.  I appreciated the information in the book as well as the range of experiences catalogued.   

I also made mental note of anyone who had done this or was  doing this so I could ask questions and get support. And ask questions and seek support I have done!

11.  Did you plan to tandem nurse, or did it just happen?

I pretty much planned on it.  I liked the idea from the moment I heard it was possible and that it could reduce sibling rivalry and jealousy. Though I was pretty sure I'd end up tandem nursing, I also gave myself permission to change my mind at any point, and reminded myself that Bean could decide to wean on his own at any point as well.

As an aside to that, Adventures in Tandem Nursing mentions that there are a few points at which the nursling is possibly more likely to wean:  when milk changes/diminishes/disappears, when colostrum appears (they may not like the taste), when the milk comes back (they may not like the taste), when they become a big sibling (they may make it their own rite of passage).  Though I suspected Bean would keep nursing though all of this, I did try to keep myself mentally prepared!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Consuming Kids

In honor of Black Friday and the beginning of yet another holiday season wherein I strive to spend as little as possible on those love...  It's a post about commercialism!

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of Consuming Kids:  The Commercialization of Childhood.

I urge every parent, aunt, grandparent, teacher, babysitter, pediatrician, and anyone else with a child in their life to watch this movie and consider how advertising plays into your life and the lives of the children you know and love.

Advertising to children has been a growing concern of mine since I became a mother.  Consuming Kids talks about how advertising to kids has changed over the last 50 or so years (and especially since the Reagan administration), and what it means for our children.  Essentially, advertising is now more aggressive and harder to avoid.

This is going to be a long post, so I'll let you watch the video and I'll ramble on after it!

Here are some key concerns addressed in the film:

- advertising to children is often for much more expensive stuff (example - whereas 20 years ago we were all happy with our cheap kids' version of a fancy stereo, kids today often get the "real" and expensive deal - the iPod).

- advertising plays a role in the obesity epidemic amongst children.  Licensed characters are selling junk food (they certainly aren't selling fresh produce and bags of rice!) and video games.

-All teevision does is make you want to watch more television.  The videos, etc, don't make your kids smarter.  They do, however, correlate to higher levels of anxiety and depression for our kiddos.

- character toys from various television shows and movies inhibit imaginative and open-ended play; children use them within their pre-defined roles and personalities (from the media they have experienced them in) rather than truly imagining who or what those toys might be.

- It is difficult to watch a television show or a movie without encountering some sort of advertising in the form of product placement.  Your Tivo and DVD player can't even spare you and your child the marketing!

- Marketers are playing on kids' desire to always act/appear older than they are.  This leads to kids losing out on just being kids!

- Marketers - and market researchers - are smart.  They are using cutting-edge technology (like MRI to see brain activity!) to test how children react to colors, speed of image change, etc.  There was also discussion of children being watched while they bathed to see how they interact with various bath items.  Really?!?  I'm assuming this is with parental awareness and consent (which only makes it slightly less creepy).  This boggles my mind.

After viewing the film, the rather small audience had a discussion that mostly centered around what we could do as a community, and as parents.  Some really great points were made:

-Limiting media is necessary, but cutting it out altogether is both impossible and potentially harmful to our kids socially.

-Cutting back on media does mean changing our own habits.  This means we need to cut back on media ourselves, and we have to make more time to be with our kids away from media!  (On this point, one mother talked about her husband being a bit of The Pied Piper in her neighborhood.  Kids were coming over to play with her husband, because he was taking them out into the woods!  She said that, though she knew it was important and wonderful, it could also be annoying because she was trying to get everyone home for dinner.  I thought this was a fabulous example of the push and pull of modern America!)

- Also on the topic of our own habits and media use, I personally talked about my use of Facebook (it's the best way to socialize when I have no common space or event to attend with my friends) and other online "social" outlets.  I use an ad-blocking tool, so I never see advertisements on Facebook unless they're coming directly from one of my friends or groups.  However, in many online forums (which I don't really frequent these days) I'll see sponsored sections with logos and offers from various companies.  However, I am capable (usually) of spotting when something is a sponsored ad, versus an independent endorsement of a product by someone I trust.  (Here are a couple of blog posts I read recently that gave me some idea that I probably do not always realize this...)  I know, too, that I need to set an example for my children by limiting and being very aware of my use of media - which includes my cell phone, the internet, TV, DVDs, and movies.

-Policy is necessary.  The film points out that places where lower-income families tend to shop (like WalMart) are particularly inundated with marketing and brands (and junk!).  So these families cannot just turn off the television - their grocery shopping trips are likely to expose their children to marketing that is directed right at them.  I can attest to grocery shopping trips being stressful and full of children's marketing, and I am shopping at a pretty darn middle class grocery store.  Bean - who has never seen an episode of Sesame Street or any Thomas the Tank Engine movie (they're movies/videos, right?  Not a television show?  See...I'm even clueless...) - identifies Thomas and Elmo on balloons, etc.  So, without policy or a giant bubble for those of us wishing to escape the marketing insanity, it is absolutely unavoidable.  Saying it's up to the parents to make choices in this is simply absurd.

Lastly, after the screening, many of us were left feeling powerless and asking "what do I do now????"  Here is what the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood suggests in print, and more in video form.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My next planned adventure...

 According to the source of this photo, it's completely related to this post.  To which I say, "huh?"

Almost all of my readers, as far as I can tell, are people I know and who know me personally (and if that's not the case with you, and I don't know you're reading...where the heck did you find me?).  So you probably know I live an "active lifestyle" that includes regular exercise.

My preferred form of exercise is running.  It is particularly appealing because it doesn't require any equipment besides my clothes and shoes, it doesn't require a gym membership, and I can do it basically anywhere I find myself (though I'm horrible about going for runs when we're traveling).  It's also a great way to explore a new place and just to feel the wind on your face (as long as it's not swelteringly hot and humid, in which case you feel like you're running through pea soup.  Which is gross.).

Sometimes, I also enjoy being able to literally run away from home!

While I was stuck not being able to run for various reasons during pregnancy, I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  First off, let me just give a very quick book review:  read it.  It is a riveting story with a fascinating and hilarious cast of characters.  It also happens to deliver compelling scientific information from exercise physiology and evolutionary biology that makes our cushy shoes seem downright dangerous.  And it teaches you how to kill an antelope by running it to death.  Ok, not really - but it does make a case for humans actually having evolved to practice persistence hunting, and hence designed to run barefoot and very long distances.

Which brings us to my next back-to-nature adventure.

I don't think I could go completely barefoot (I run on too many roads and gravel trails not to worry about pebbles/gravel and glass!), but I'm starting to look at transitional-to-minimalist shoe options.

I figure now is a great time to do this.   I'm coming back from pregnancy by doing the couch-to-5K program, having been training for my first half marathon when I got pregnant with Bean (I was up to running 8 miles at a stretch and it was awesome) and having been running about 6 miles at a stretch when I got pregnant with Squeak.  So, as I'm slowly building up my mileage again, I'll also slowly shift to minimalist shoes. Or at least that's my plan!

My goal on this adventure is to FINALLY - 4.5 years after originally scheduled - run my first half marathon in spring of 2011.

My hope is that I'll feel generally better - no back or knee pain, specifically - if I run closer to the way I'm physiologically meant to!

I am a bit tickled by the idea of getting away from swooshes and other logos on my shoes, too.  I'll be writing a post about this shortly, but I'm becoming more an more anti-logo and anti-corporate.  The marketing bothers me, I don't buy anything for the brand name (well, I probably do subconsciously because those rat bastard marketing folks are smart and well-researched!), and I don't like feeling as if I'm paying a company (*cough*Nike*cough*) so that I can do advertise for them.  If I could figure out how to winterize them (i.e. wear them with wool socks...) I might even be interested in Luna Sandals.  Unfortunately, those and Vibram Five Fingers are probably out for me because I don't think I can deal with something between my toes during runs!

So, as far as I've gotten on this adventure is being completely stoked to get out and run, and to try out a pair of shoes.  I've read lots of reviews and followed links to research articles from here, and I'm ready to head out to my local running store  to compare a few as soon as my baby toddler husband dog laundry life will let me!

Guess what I want for Christmas!! (Bonus:  these shoes are generally much less expensive than those I've been buying!)

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Gateway Drug to Cloth Everything

A load of diaper laundry and the dude who kept me company while I folded it.
It all started with cloth diapers.  We started cloth diapering for the money savings.  I always love saving money.  I also loved not having to go to the store and get more diapers, or seek out deals.  I didn't love the laundry, of course, but I discovered that I didn't mind doing it and I wasn't grossed out by it.  In fact, the actual laundry part was not ever any more gross than the wiping of poopy butts I have to do any way (ironically, I'm writing this after changing my clothes and Squeak's, and then requiring a change of sheets on the bed all because of spit-up and poop.  Babies are gross.).  And the stink around the house was less than with disposables because a) breastmilk poop doesn't really stink much and b) the eventual solids poops were getting flushed immediately down the toilet - not going in a pail of any sort and c) I washed every couple of days, so nothing was ever sitting around long.

So then quickly followed cloth wipes.  I also found them easier  than disposables because I could just throw them in with the diaper laundry.  Plus more money savings.  Cha-ching!

As Bean got a little older and started getting colds and had the Toddler's Everlasting Snotty Nose, I started grabbing wipes instead of tissues.  They were always in my bag, I never ran out (at this point he was pooping less frequently, so I had more wipes than I needed for diapering), and it didn't make me nuts to have Bean grabbing handfuls of them like he he did with tissues (wastefulness like that is a pet peeve...).  So I stopped buying tissues and everyone started using wipes.  The lack of extra clutter in the form of garbage or packaging started to add up for me, mentally.

At some point in all this, during one of my de-cluttering sprees, I came across a bunch of t-shirts that weren't seeing any use.  They were freebies that were not our sizes, or old shirts too beat up to wear anymore.  So I cut them up and we use them as dish and cleaning rags (a note:  they're MUCH more sanitary than sponges because they are washed frequently instead of growing molds and fungi while they are perpetually wet!).

Recently, we purchased some simple but nice cloth napkins from Etsy to use when we have company for dinner, but we usually use the rags if it's just us.  We have a ridiculous number of rags in a huge bag under the kitchen sink.

The longer I've been a mom, the less grossed out I have gotten.  I still have a thing about the thought of parasitic worms (who doesn't?!?),  but other than that I don't think I'd be able to get through the day if much disgusted me.  I've eaten food out of someone else's mouth, wiped butts, worn puke, worn poop (twice.  And both times there was a disposable diaper involved!!!), and even figured out how to deal with someone peeing down a heat vent.  And, from what I can gather from other toddler moms, I've been lucky not to deal with "poop painting."  (That one might still gross me out...)

So, when my periods returned (a long time) after Bean was born, I started thinking about the cloth option there, too.  It had previously seemed odd and maybe a little icky to me.  But the more I researched "mama cloth"  (I actually kind of hate that term because their use and usefulness has nothing to do with being a mom), the more sense it made.  So, near the end of my pregnancy with Squeak, I finally invested in reusable cloth pads.

And as I was increasingly pregnant, my shrinking bladder grew my toilet paper habit to about a roll a day.  So I kept running out.  And there were cloth wipes within reach.  "Family cloth"  (again a term that seems strange to me) seems to be the next step.  Don't worry, I haven't really gone there.  Yet?

Looking forward, I'm starting to get excited for Squeak to outgrow his little cloth pre-folds, because they are going to make the most awesome "unpaper towels."  They're so absorbent, and they've got an awful lot of life left in them!

I obviously have a cloth habit here.  I need to learn to sew...

Unfortunately, that endeavor is at least a few years off!

I'm thinking I'll make this into a little series.  I'll elaborate in some future posts on each of these - what products I've tried, what has worked, laundry, problem-solving, etc.  I know that many of my friends do a lot of these things as well (and have found different solutions/products that work better for them), so I'm sure you'll be able to get answers to questions if you have them - or just get some ideas!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spiky Snake Bread

My husband's creativity never ceases to amaze me.  With this bread, he kind of outdid himself!

Bean and The Beast have been making "Snake Bread" for awhile.  The Beast would take some of the dough from his weekly bread-baking and roll it out into a snake and bake it as Bean's very own tiny loaf.  Often they're working together, and this is the scene:

Then The Beast got the idea to put a potato under the snake's head as it bakes so that it would be holding its head up. (Brilliant, right???)

And then???  Well, not only does this Snake Bread have sunflower seed spikes, but it was one of The Beast's attempt to solve an ongoing issue we were having with Bean - the maddening toddler pickiness.

Bean has always enjoyed a wide variety of foods - the kid will steal broccoli off of our plates, eat plan garbanzo beans as a snack, and used to pig out on peas and carrots.    But lately he won't eat anything he hasn't eaten very recently.  Suddenly, we were having trouble convincing him to eat a) protein besides peanut butter and sometimes almonds and b) anything besides bread at dinner.

So the beast decided to experiment with adding various sources of protein to the bread.  He made a loaf with quinoa in it that was quite successful.  The loaf above includes quinoa, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds in addition to the sunflower seed spikes.  The Beast is simultaneously a parenting and culinary genius, no?

Unfortunately, Bean pulled off all the spikes, ate most of the snake, but rejected the bread The Beast later made of the same dough.  We think he didn't like the sunflower seeds.

I can coax the recipe out of The Beast if anyone's interested but BE WARNED.  He is all technical and geeky about bread.  He even uses a sourdough culture that he caught in our kitchen.  WILD SOURDOUGH!  :)  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I've given up on homemade laundry detergent

There are a lot of reasons it would be nice to make your own laundry detergent.  You could save money, it might be better for the environment, you know exactly what's in it, etc.

I wanted to make my own mainly because I was tired of stripping our cloth diapers.  I'd stripped because of laundry detergent build-up, and I'd stripped because of hard water/mineral build-up.  I'd even stripped because the diapers had ended up dried with a dryer sheet (oh goodness...the resulting smell after Bean peed in them was gag-worthy!).  The hard water and detergent build-up are issues I'd hoped to resolve with my own detergent...

I had been using Rockin Green's Hard Rock for awhile without having to strip, but it is $.30 per load in my top-loader.  I wanted something less expensive.

So I looked around and did a little bit of research and found a few common ingredients in detergent recipes:  washing soda, borax, baking soda, and soap.

I found this blog entry that provided good information (and links to more) on the ingredients and jumped right in.  I decided just to start with a recipe, continue to do a little more research, and probably modify the recipe along the way.

The recipe I used was this:
One bar of Fels Naptha
2 cups of washing soda
1 cup of borax

I made up one batch of it and had two problems.  The first was a personal opinion - I didn't like the smell of Fels Naptha.  The second problem, though, is that soap can build up on diapers and cause issues.  I'd forgotten all about the soap concern until right after I mixed up my first batch of the detergent - so I used it on everything but the diapers and started contemplating my next attempt.

I ended up going with this:
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax
1/2 cup of oxiclean

I was already using it when I contacted a chemist friend of mine to see if he could shed any light on what all of these ingredients were doing and how safe they were (both before and after they had been mixed with varying temperatures of water).

He said that, while the ingredients were safe enough, he wasn't sure it would be an effective detergent without soap because you need soap to remove oils.  I suggested I would only use it on diapers (no oil stains there!) and he reminded me that there would, indeed, be oil on the diapers because there are oils on skin.

So, I decided to modify the plan and use Tide Coldwater (something my chemist friend and his wife had successfully used on diapers, with our city's hard water, without having to strip all. the. time.) every 2-3 washes.  My friend said that plan wasn't going to hurt anyone or anything - I just might end up with not-completely-clean diapers.  Since that was the problem I basically already had, I decided to risk it.

So off I went...

And at some point during this experiment I started using cloth menstrual pads.  The pads are great (I'll be posting about them soon), except I soon noticed that every time they were washed with the diapers (i.e. with my homemade detergent) they were causing irritation/rash.

Obviously, since I was getting irritated, I couldn't imagine putting this detergent up against my baby's skin all day long on a diaper!  And I really didn't want to deal with figuring out what was irritating me and coming up with an alternative.

So I switched entirely to Tide Cold Water (for about $.21/load).  All was fine again!

Until Squeak came along and threw a wrench in things.  Shortly after we started using cloth on him (we started him in disposables because we had them and because it was easier to keep them out of the way of the umbilical stump), Squeak developed a diaper rash that was a solid, bright red.  And the diapers had a funny smell to them when wet (I think it smells like Fruit Loops - a sort of sickly, chemical, sweet smell).  I put a barrier cream on him and it started peeling off as it was healing (ugh).  It came back and I suspected it was an irritation from the detergent, and the pediatrician confirmed it wasn't yeast or it probably was something on the diapers.

After stripping the diapers AGAIN, we've returned to Rockin Green. 

I might do some more research and try again sometime - and I'd welcome any input from friends an readers - but I can only handle so many things going on at once with the baby and don't want to potentially invite another rash! 

I give up on homemade detergent for now!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

So let me tell you about my week...

That picture is of my nemesis.  It's what was left of Squeak's frenulum after he went under general anesthesia to have the frenulum, well, not be there.  It's a procedure called frenotomy or frenectomy.

In that picture, you're looking at the underside of his tongue.  The tissue at the bottom that I think looks a little scary is where the first surgery was done.  This was taken just before he had another frenotomy.  Oh yes.  It's been quite a week.

So, late the previous week nursing went to hell.  And it went there fast.  Squeak had had the frenotomy under general anesthesia on the 25th of October.  Nursing got less painful and I waited for it to get totally better (it can take time as the baby re-learns how to nurse with all the added mobility in their tongue).

Around the time I wrote the monotreme post, nursing was getting really painful.  It seemed to be getting worse.  I made an appointment with a speech therapist and was generally really frustrated.

That Friday, nursing became so painful that I had to stop nursing and pump instead.  It was unbearable.  So I whined on a forum on Sunday about how horrible it was bottlefeeding Squeak (he would cry and fuss the whole time.  And it was messy.), and someone suggested emailing Dr. Jack Newman.  I figured it couldn't hurt, even though I was sure he'd have nothing to add...

He told me the freaking frenulum can re-attach!  I called and made an appointmen to see a nurse practitioner who was a former IBCLC (Lactation Consultant).  The first appointment I could make it to was Tuesday morning.

Monday I made the trek up to see my specialist and was told I was dehydrated.  Lame.  I'm working on drinking constantly...

I also realized that Squeak's frenotomy had been done with a cautery, so I was doubtful it could have re-attached...which made the whole thing a mystery as to why nursing was horrible.  I even emailed Dr. Newman again to ask if it could re-attach if it were cauterized, and he said he had no idea.  It seems this entire first surgery was out of the norm - it's usually done awake and with a pair of scissors.  Squeak's was done under general anesthesia and with a cautery.

Sooooo...I was feeling like a crazy lady at this point.  I didn't know what was going on - what the heck could cause nursing to get worse??  And would we be able to fix it???  Of course, I'm at this point fearful there's something neurologically wrong with my baby and he can't figure out how to nurse and OMGOMGOMG.

Tuesday we had our appointment and the nurse practitioner said his suck was coordinated on her finger, and all his reflexes and his tone looked great.  He's alert, following faces, realllllly interested in faces, etc etc.  And she felt in his mouth and there was still frenulum there.  GAH!

Then we went to see the IBCLC who has diagnosed tongue-tie in both my boys, and who has been there with all the latest information and an ear to listen through our breastfeeding challenges with both kiddos.  (To my readers and friends who have not yet crossed into Momville, nursing is not "supposed" to be this hard.  Starting out has been a trainwreck for me both times.  WHATEVER.)  The IBCLC could feel that there was more frenulum there, and also noted that Squeak's tongue was tremoring - a sign that he was working really really hard to use his tongue because it was still tied down.

She recommended we have a second procedure done, and we discussed a pediatric dentist in Chicago (about 4-5 hours away without kids...) who does it with a laser and without general anesthesia.  There was no way I was putting my baby under general anesthesia again.  The Beast was initially reluctant to drive to Chicago and then pay out of pocket for the procedure (insurance wouldn't cover it).  But I was having no talk of general - the general was scary, I was separated from Squeak for 30 minutes, and when he was handed to me it was by a nicotine-saturated nurse who had snuggled him on her chest to wake him up.  He smelled like cigarettes and anesthesia.  It was disgusting.

When it turned out the procedure basically hadn't been completed by the ENT the first time (as opposed to the darn thing re-attaching), The Beast was much more amenable to going elsewhere, and the doctor in Chicago was actually the closest we have been able to find (so crazy...).

In any case...I called the pediatric dentist that day (we're still on Tuesday) and got an appointment for Thursday.

The rest of Tuesday's a bit of a blur, but I did have a postpartum doula come help me pack that night.  I was so scatterbrained and I really REALLY needed to sleep.  So she came and helped get some laundry done, cleaned up the house a little while we packed, held and soothed Squeak while I packed, and she changed my sheets (which had, at some point, been pooped on by the baby in a spot no one sleeps on.  It could have been a day earlier or a week.  This is motherhood...).  It was a great bit of last-minute help.  We came home to clean sheets and a somewhat tidy living room, and lots of clean (and folded!) laundry.

I think I got 3 hours of sleep on Tuesday night.  I was up thinking things like, "what if we go up there and the doctor says there's no frenulum to snip?"  And, of course, "I wonder if it's possible to cut off my baby's tongue?"  

Wednesday morning I took the kids to a playtime/breastfeeding support thing.  I had to get us out of the house so I didn't lose my marbles altogether.  Then we picked up The Beast and headed off to Chicago.

We arrived in time for dinner and then we all crashed.

In the morning, we all went to the Field Museum.  Bean met Sue the T-Rex!

We also sprung the Robo-Sue exhibit on him as a surprise.  Bad, bad planning on that one.  He was terrified of the moving dinosaurs!!  He clung to The Beast and started screaming that he wanted to go home.  It took a little while for us to get him calmed down and then he insisted that he did not want to go back to the exhibit.  So maybe we should have told him what to expect.  Or he might just be too young and have too awesome an imagination.  I mean, the very low-tech monster in this scared him (he wanted to be held close and "kept safe" while he watched it over and over and over).

After a good morning and a decent lunch at the museum, Squeak and I headed up for the repeat frenotomy, and Bean and The Beast went to the Shedd Aquarium and then found a park when Bean lost his mind (overtired?  Overstimulated?).

As a mom, I've now been part of three very different frenotomy procedures.  This was the least stressful.  Squeak and I were reclined in a dental chair - Squeak was laying on my shoulder facing away from me.  I held his hands and talked in his ear the whole time.  An assistant held his head still, and the pediatric dentist used a laser to perform the procedure.  There was very little bleeding, and Squeak was alert and ready to nurse immediately afterward.

We went and picked up The Beast and Bean and headed home. We were all exhausted on Friday, and took it somewhat easy today (the good thing about the travel was that we didn't eat any of our leftovers last week and didn't need to cook today!).

Sunday, I plan to spend some quality time re-learning how to nurse the baby.  I've been nursing in these crazy positions that are murderous to my back - because that's been the best way to keep him on.  The Beast has agreed to take on Bean for the day.  We're not planning to cook or clean or do anything but work toward getting this sorted out.

Nursing is going.  I'm not sure if it's better or not.  Well, it's definitely better because Squeak isn't falling off every few sucks - but I'm still hurting.  But not bad enough at the moment that I don't want to nurse.  Baby steps.  *sigh*

I have to say that if I didn't know from personal experience that nursing will still be "worth it," even if we work at this a bit longer, I think I would have quit last week.  I was feeling very hopeless, I reached the point of not wanting to nurse bceause of pain, and I was so, so tired (Squeak is suffering because he takes down so much air as he eats - he was waking up screaming at 3 or 4AM needing to burp and spit up).  Or, if I'd not had so much support - including a husband who took most of the last week off.  I'm so grateful for everyone who talked me through it, helped me figure out my options, and assisted us in numerous other ways.

And now - onward and upward.  Please, oh please.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How do monotremes lactate? (AKA I am a nerd)

I swear this post is hippy parenting-related.  At least tangentially.

The only screen-time Bean gets is nature videos (and other documentary-type his recent discovery of rockets and videos that show them exploding).

One of the things he's talked about and been interested in for awhile is mammals.  So we've watched videos about mammals, read books about mammals, and I've sought out answers to questions that Bean and I have had along the way.

And along the way I had a second baby and have spent a lot of time dealing with lactation/breastfeeding and, hence, have reminded of what triggers lactation in humans - the detachment of the placenta sets in motion a hormonal shift that leads to milk production.  I assume this is the case in all placental mammals and also in marsupials, since they actually have a placenta of sorts.  But what about monotremes (the third type of mammal), who don't actually birth live young but lay eggs instead?  I mean...there's definitely no placenta and there's a lapse (of about twelve days) between the laying of the eggs and the birth of the where in the reproductive process of a monotreme is milk production triggered??

As anyone who has joined me recently in a Running Mom chat knows...I've become a little obsessed with this question.

Well, I think I've found the answer, so perhaps I'll actually talk about running or something in a Running Mom chat...(it might help that I'm finally running again!).

If I'm understanding this article correctly, monotremes essentially lactate on their eggs so the eggs are appropriately moist.  And then the hatchlings suck the milk from a patch of hair and skin because monotremes don't have nipples.

Nature is freaking weird.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Toddlers and preschoolers.  Holy shit.

Or at least, at the moment, my toddler/preschooler.

It has been a really horrible day of tantrums.  I've thrown a few today and, with almost 30 years of practice, they are superb.  I managed to elicit fear from my young child as I screamed and carried on in frustration.  And, as I lay down with him in a seemingly futile effort to get us both the rest and quiet we needed, I started sobbing.  And he comforted me.  "It's ok, Momma.  It's ok." 

"No, buddy.  No, it's not.  I'm so sorry.  I'm so sorry, but I don't know what else to do and I'm tired of fighting with you."

"Momma, it's ok.  I know it is.  Take deep breaths."

The little beast, who had refused to let me finish wiping the poop off his butt not 5 minutes earlier  (I ended up turning him upside-down over one arm so I could finish the job with a free hand...) now wanted to stop my crying.  Oy.


I know he doesn't understand.  My little boy is about as smart as they come, but there is so much - especially about emotions (and the health hazards of poop) - that I know he doesn't yet have the capacity to comprehend.

After a day like today (if only a poopy butt were the sole power struggle...), I come away feeling tired, low, and relieved that I somehow managed not to strike my child.

Or eat my young.

I'd just like to reiterate:  holy shit.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I won't show you my favorite photos! Neener neener neeeeeeeener!

 One of the very few nursing photos I will probably ever share in such a public way
Photo Credit:  Venus Leah Photography

I have some of the most beautiful sibling photos I've ever seen.  And I won't show them to you.

You might have noticed that I have not shared any of my own nursing photos before now.  I have debated and debated, as I have lots of breastfeeding photos that are beautiful, funny, and/or mundane.  Especially in the early days, nursing is so frequent that every photo taken is just before, during, or just after a feeding.  I always chuckle at photos as I notice my shirt is not quite all the way down, or that I can tell the access flap on my bra isn't actually clasped, or some other tell-tale sign of probably the most commonplace happening of new motherhood:  feeding the baby.

I don't keep these photos off the internet because I'm ashamed.  Obviously I'm not. 

But I am very uneasy about sharing photos of my children that could be used as fodder for teasing.  For certain photos, I feel I need their consent to share them in such a public way as Facebook or this public blog.  I've decided to share photos of my newborn nursing because that is becoming a more commonplace occurrence in this country, with 70.9% of newborns nursing in the hospital in 2003, and the CDC's goal for 2010 being 75%.  I don't expect, when he's 5 or 6, that anyone is going to tease Squeak for nursing when he was one week old.

But I'm not so sure what the attitudes about photos of nursing toddlers will be toward the toddlers when they are school-aged.

It's really unfortunate because the photos that Venus took of Bean and Squeak nursing together are the most tender toddler/newborn sibling photos I think I have ever seen.  Bean is gazing at Squeak and holding his hand, or Bean is nursing while Squeak sleeps on him.  In another, Bean is nursing and gently stroking Squeak's head.

The photos are so sweet and genuine, and they capture how I feel about my life as a mother-of-two so far - and especially how I see Bean as a big brother.  The past four weeks have been chaotic, and even cumbersome (I haven't grown a third arm, but I have ended up carrying things with my mouth a few times so far...), but full of love and appreciation and sooooo much snuggling!

...and a little yelling.  It would be disingenuous if I didn't state for the record that the last few nights have been rough - each for a different reason - and I've been a bit short-tempered!  I'm very much still on a high of postpartum hormones (and I imagine the fact that I'm nursing and snuggling two is keeping my oxytocin level at near-euphoric), but there is no substitute for a good night's sleep.  Or three.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October has me seeing red because of all the pink.

I feel like I might be stoned to death for posting this.  Or, at the very least, declared insensitive.

It's a Sunday night.  I've spent much of the day cursing under my breath about "pink crap" as I've caught glimpses of various football players, coaches, and referees sporting bright. pink. crap.  Arm bands, shoes, accents on uniforms and outerwear...

First off, how exactly does the purchase of all this athletic garb reduce breast cancer rates or improve survival or quality of life for women with breast cancer?  Who is benefiting from all of these men wearing hideous stuff?  Stuff that will be used one day a week for one month, probably requires multiple iterations per player to account for wear and tear and to keep the players looking clean throughout each game, and almost certainly won't even be used again during future Pink Crap Months.  The cost and wastefulness alone boggle my mind.

October makes me angry.  This week, I couldn't even buy mushrooms without my awareness of breast cancer being raised!  

That is the goal this month, right?  Or is it to make corporations look good by standing for a cause?  And, corporations, is that even accomplished at this point?  Or perhaps every one of you feels the need to jump on the bandwagon simply to level the playing field?

And if awareness of breast cancer is raised...

Well, have we yet reached a point of diminishing returns wherein money spent on pink shoes for athletes may not pay off in producing better outcomes through early detection of breast cancer?

Here is where I really think I could be hated...

Might the continuous and, frankly, aggressive raising of awareness of a cancer that is not even women's leading cancer killer and not even close to the number one killer of women actually be a disservice?  (Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of women and heart disease kills nearly twice as many women every year as all forms of cancer combined.)

There is already a strong misconception of the likelihood of breast cancer's threat to a woman's life.

Women and their healthcare providers are often unaware of the risk of heart disease, as well as the differing symptoms of heart attack in women versus men.  Women are less likely than men to survive their first heart attacks.  According to the American Heart Association, "recent research suggests that the coronary heart disease death rate for women ages 35 to 44 actually increased annually between 1997 and 2002."

Because of misconceptions about women's risks of heart disease, my mother was misdiagnosed in 1994 and died after an almost 16-hour-long heart attack.  She thought it was a panic attack until perhaps an hour before she lost consciousness on our kitchen floor.  She was only 45.

Walking in to stores and being confronted with pink blenders, bubble wrap, and mushroom-packaging is a slap in my face.  Are women really benefiting from sales of pink appliances?  From linebackers dressed in pink?

If the barrage of pink is contributing to better outcomes for women with breast cancer - or if it is reducing the rate of breast cancer - please point me to the statistics and I will gladly bite my tongue and shut my trap.

Commence with the stoning.  I feel better now.

**I have loads of citations I feel I should make in this post but, at the moment, only one hand and only about 4 hours of sleep ahead of me.  I will provide citations later for anything requested in the comments here or on Facebook!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Comments on old posts are just going to be messed up...

I went to fix the comments and re-read the email from help at disqus, and it's just not worth it to fix them!

If you want to see your comments and any response I made, and you don't see/can't find your comments, I'll try to help you find them.  This shouldn't be an issue going forward - they made a fix that should supposedly fix the issue on future posts.

I swear your comments are all there, out in the ether!  The only reason I know about the problem is that a very good friend thought she had offended me and I had removed her comments.  In fact, I'd made a fairly lengthy response to her.  I haven't removed a thing (yet?  I'm positive there are things I would remove...just nothing that has come up yet!).

In any case, sorry.  I'm too tired/distracted to figure out which comments are sorta/kinda missing, and then migrate them.  I'm up at 1:30AM just because this is the only uninterrupted time I have, and I'm not going to waste it moving comments that people probably aren't going to read anyway.

So carry on with your blog reading, and let me know if you want to find your comment(s)!

Friday, October 22, 2010

We boycott Nestlé. I'm not even sure my husband knows why.

With two young kids who currently require lots of attention (hey, it won't be long before we're asked not to be seen in public within 200 yards of them, right?), my husband and I have limited amounts of time alone together or time to discuss anything very complicated.  Thus, I'm fairly certain my husband knows that we boycott Nestlé...but I'm also pretty certain he doesn't entirely know why or exactly what products that means I don't buy.

So, Love of My Life, this post's for you!

There are so many reasons to boycott Nestlé, and the only reason I've found to continue buying their products is convenience.

The biggest issue with Nestlé is their marketing tactics.  Nothing they make is, by any means, good for us.  And they make or are  associated with a LOT of products (not just things with the Nestlé brand on them - Nestlé owns or has part ownership of many MANY brands!).   Of course, there are a lot of companies that make unhealthy foods that I gladly buy.  I eat chocolate chips, cookies,  and ice cream with some regularity...and very occasionally even eat microwavable chimichangas and the like (which, by the way, are never as good as I think they're going to be...).  But the companies that sell me these foods have in no way made an effort to convince me that they are good for me!

Nestlé, however, has gone to great lengths to present their foods - especially those for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers - as a healthy choice.

When I first read the Nestlé boycott information that comes up with a simple Google search (namely here, and here), I have to admit that I had a completely myopic reaction.  I really am ashamed to say it, but I initially reacted with "I have too many other things to worry about - this company doesn't really impact me that much."  Plus, I have never used formula (the marketing of which is the number one reason for boycott that comes up with initial research), and I eat so little packaged food that cutting out Nestlé products wasn't an issue.  I thought "ah well, I'm boycotting without even trying!"

It is not true that Nestlé doesn't impact my life, nor is it true that I was already boycotting before I put in a little more effort...

How Nestlé negatively impacts my life:

There is an obesity epidemic in the U.S.  And blood pressure and heart disease are personal concerns of mine (and should be a concern of every family's).  All of these things are linked to processed food and sodium.  This impacts the health of my loved ones, it impacts my healthcare costs, and it impacts my taxes.  The marketing of these foods as healthy also impacts what other parents and schools feel it is appropriate to feed my children on a regular basis.  (Please note that I don't worry about my kids eating "bad" food occasionally, but I do dread the day I send them to school and they want to buy school lunch, or they want to trade with other kids.)

I learned not too long ago that Nestlé owns Gerber.

Over the summer, a lot of "Gerber Generation" ads started popping up on Hulu (which is the only way I see commercials anymore).  The first time I saw this commercial, my jaw hit the floor:

Say "hello" to the Gerber Generation.  They have some big news to share.  The nutrition children get in the first five years can effect their health forever.  Think about that.  Together, we can create a healthier generation.  And it all starts with you.  Welcome to the Gerber Generation.

Nothing in this commercial is actually false.  But it's clearly implying that Gerber's products can play a key role in "creating a healthier generation."  NOT SO.  The best single example of Gerber's disregard for the health of our children is the sodium content in their toddler meals, which are explicitly marketed as nutritious.
After repeatedly seeing the implied growth of an infant/toddler/preschooler on Gerber products - one packaged food to another, and then on to another (and then what?  On to Stouffer's brand frozen meals, which Nestlé also owns?) - I grew to hate the baby giggle at the end of the "Gerber Generation" commercials.  How sad is it that a baby giggle made me cringe???

What my family now avoids (are you reading this, babe?):

Finding out that Gerber was owned by Nestlé, and knowing about Nestlé's abhorrent formula marketing strategies in developing countries, and being fueled by too many hearings of the Gerber Generation theme song and that squealing baby giggle, I double-checked the list of Nestlé brands and found a few we did occasionally buy.

Those included:

-Haagen Dazs (Oh drat!  We have to buy Ben and Jerry's or the FANTASTIC local stuff available to us...) - and note that Edy's, Dreyer's, and Skinny Cow are also owned by Nestlé!
-Garnier Fructis (I just stopped using shampoo and hair products altogether, and I'm looking to make or just stop using any other skin and beauty items)
-Cheerios (this was such a rare purchase anyway)
-Carnation Instant Breakfast (I hadn't bought these in years, but now never will again!)
-Power Bars (again, hadn't bought them in years anyway)
-Butterfingers (Sorry, honey, you may not have realized you were forbidden from buying Butterfingers!)
-Wonka candies (another rare purchase)

We have one last product we have to cut out...
-Alcon contact solution!  (Poor Beast.  He had a hideous reaction to generic contact solution and, henceforth, we have stuck to a single brand.  It happens to be a Nestlé brand, though!)

If you want to boycott:

If you are bothered by the unethical business practices of Nestlé (there are more I haven't even discussed, but you can find out more by following my links), check out the list of brands (this is the most comprehensive I have found) and consider alternatives.  The alternatives are plentiful, and are similar or better in quality in almost every case!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

When in doubt, get naked

 It has been a rough evening, night, and morning around here...

Yesterday evening, Squeak freaked out.  He's usually a peaceful baby - he grunts when he needs to be upright to burp, he makes feeding cues and little fusses when he is hungry, and he SCREEEEEAMS when we change his diaper.  Other than that, he's not usually fussy.

So, last night, he just started screaming.  I offered him the breast, I tried burping him, I walked around shushing him, I tried various carrying positions...

And then I stripped him naked, peeled off my shirt, and settled him on my chest.  Instant quiet.  He pressed his little ear against my chest, right over my heart, and just looked up at me in total calm.

I hopped in the bath with him, where floating (with his head supported out of the water) is usually a relaxing treat for him...but he just wanted to stay on my chest - he flinched every time I poured water over his back or replaced a cooled-off wash cloth with a nice warm one.  He seemed to just want to be left alone - even if that meant he was getting cold (which, of course, I couldn't allow to happen, so I kept him warm even though it made him flinch).

I still don't know what was (and still is) bothering the tiny dude, but he's currently mostly naked and snuggled up against me once again.  In the night, I hardly got any sleep because he just wanted to be upright and naked on my chest!

I think his stomach might be bothering him, or it might be a diaper rash.  Or both. 

I think he might have a sensitivity to something in our detergent.  I am having detergent issues.  I tried going hippy and making my own, and *I* had a sensitivity to it.  So I'm using a major brand right now, and think Squeak might have a sensitivity to it.  UGH!

Poor little dude :(

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Comments are messed up...

Just FYI, I need to get some comments sorted out.  I haven't deleted or otherwise hidden any comments - they're just at the wrong URL!  I will try to sort it out in the next few days!

In the meantime, cuteness :)

Bean picked out his outfit...

 Squeak enjoyed a bath

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Popcorn on the Stove

This is SO EASY, and it's much healthier than any microwave version you're going to find.

You should choose an oil with a high smoke point.  I've successfully used safflower oil and lard* and the batch pictured was made with coconut oil (and, hence, it looks solid before it heats up).  I don't think I'll use coconut oil again - I think it has too high a moisture content, because it was splattering like crazy. 

We buy popcorn kernels in bulk at our co-op.

You'll need
-oil (some)
-popcorn kernels (about 1/4-1/3 cup)
-a saucepan with a lid
-a large bowl

So, easy-peasy stovetop popcorn:
1.  Pour some oil and 2 or 3 popcorn kernels in a saucepan. The amount of oil doesn't really matter - you just need enough to easily cover the bottom of the pan.

2.  Put the lid on the pan and heat on medium-high until the couple of kernels pop.  Then you know your oil is hot enough.

3.  Pour in enough popcorn kernels to cover the bottom of the saucepan in a single layer (this will depend on the size of your saucepan).  Cover and pick it up off the heat.

4.  Count to 30 while you shake the kernels around a bit in the pan (keeping the pan flat).  Bean counts to 30 with me, so it's kind of the most fun step for him.  This step covers the kernels in the hot oil and gets them all about the same temperature so they'll pop at about the same time and leave very few duds!

5.  Return the pan to the heat, but keep it moving so the kernels don't burn.

6.  Wait with anticipation for the popcorn to start popping!  Keep the kernels moving, and when the popping slows to 3 seconds between pops, your done.

NOTE:  The pan may get so full that you need to open the lid and pour out some of the popped corn before you're done.  That's fine.  Just do it carefully and return the pan to the heat.  I set the big bowl next to me on the stove so I can easily do this.

Obviously, we don't do salt as a topping, but I do melt and add unsalted butter.  I've also seen suggestions of melting butter into the oil, but I once stupidly used butter instead of oil and ended up with caramelized-buttered I'm nervous to try melting the butter into the oil.  (Though the caramelized butter was pretty tasty...just not what I was going for!)

I've also used a little grated parmesan cheese to top my popcorn, cayenne pepper makes a good topping as well.
*If you're going to share your popcorn, I recommend mentioning if you cooked it with lard.  I once sent some to work with The Beast to share at a meeting and nobody knew about the lard until I mentioned it at a get-together several days later.  I think some folks were a little weirded out by the use of animal fat.  I hope they weren't vegetarians...(I felt pretty bad about the whole thing!)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tandem Nursing (11 days in)

Photo credit:

I'm nursing two.  Sometimes I nurse them simultaneously, and sometimes apart.  I've been lucky, I think, that my older nursling is not jealous about nursing and he's quite patient as we get everyone situated.  He has even been problem-solving various positions in which I've found myself nursing both.  He's told me sadly, "I can't reach," and then suggested I roll one way or another, or that he needs a pillow (which he will go retrieve and start positioning).  We're working that part out and he's totally willing. 

The biggest challenge with positions for nursing both has been finding one that works for me to lay down.  Squeak requires I help him on with both hands, and then that I hold him close.  Otherwise he's slipping on and off or getting a really painful latch.  So, I can't nurse both while I really rest because the baby will slip off.  Alternatively, if the baby is in a good position for me to lay down in (side-lying), then the toddler can't get comfortable without worrying he's going to crush the baby (yes, he expresses concern that he "can't watch out for Squeak").  I don't know if I just need more pillows, or if the baby just needs to be bigger and have nursing figured out a little better.  I think both.

They are very, very sweet when I nurse them together, though.  The best position is actually having Bean sit in my lap and having Squeak sort of in his lap.  So they're both effectively in cradle hold.  They look at each other, and Bean insists on stroking Squeak's head, putting an arm around him, or holding his hand.  I have both my boys snuggled with me, relaxed.  It's really lovely and peaceful.


The problem Bean is having (with everything - not just with nursing) is pushing the boundaries.  Now that I have milk (and lots of it!), I haven't found the limit of how long he will nurse.  He's not necessarily nursing more frequently than when I was pregnant, but he has definitely increased each session's duration!

So, we get to the end of it being nice.  I want to get a drink, eat breakfast (he comes in first thing in the morning), or I am just over it for now.  I give him warning and let him decide the metric for when we'll be done (setting a timer, counting, singing a song, reciting a rhyme).  And then he screams for more.  No matter whether we've nursed for 5 minutes or 25 minutes.

If this were unique to nursing, I'd probably wean him.  It's really maddening.  But this is an issue with everything these days.  He ate all the pasta on his plate and there's no more?  "I do want more pasta!  I do!"  ::cue epic tantrum::  He has been playing a game and it's time for dinner, and we've reached the end of an agreed-upon metric (just like with nursing)?  Oh man...Tantrumville.

He always wants to read one more book, sing one more song, play longer, eat more of what we don't have, or nurse longer than I can stand.  And don't get me started on naps and bedtime.  Holy expletives.  You'd think we were sending the kid to the gallows.

As much as sometimes I dread the fight of ending a nursing, I know that if I weren't nursing him there would just be some other fight in its place - and it wouldn't be preceded by a good snuggle (he doesn't really snuggle other than nursing or in bed for sleep).  And I wouldn't be able to invite him into my lap and make eye contact with him and often work out a solution in the midst of an epic tantrum.  And if I were trying to wean him...I do not want to think about the screaming tantrums and the jealousy.  I can only imagine he'd be pissed every time his brother nursed.  And rightly so, in my mind.

For anyone who is perplexed by this whole tandem nursing thing (I've been asked a few times whether I worry that the baby is getting enough) - Squeak is obviously getting plenty of milk.  He's gulping, he's having plenty of wet diapers (this is really the sign of whether they're getting enough), and he was back to his birth weight at 4 days (they don't look for that until 2 weeks!).

 Photo of actress Julie Bowen tandem nursing her twins that is currently circulating.

Women are able to exclusively nurse twins.  I even have heard of a mom who gave triplets her milk exclusively.  We have two breasts (so the triplet thing boggles me, logistically).  Our breasts operate on a sort of supply and demand principle - the more demand there is for milk, the greater a mom's supply of milk will be.  So I was never concerned that I wouldn't have enough milk - my toddler doesn't nurse as much as a Twin Squeak would nurse.

If anything, since Squeak's suck was so disorganized in the very beginning, his brother's continued nursing ensured that I had a plentiful milk supply.  And, since I have a REALLY plentiful milk supply, Squeak doesn't have to work very hard.

Also, Bean's nursing has benefited me as we've worked on Squeak's latch.  I had major engorgement when my milk came in with Bean, and I also later ended up with two back-to-back bouts of mastitis (the second landed me in the hospital with concerns I had an abscess), and then I had months of clogs and threatened mastitis was tough.  

So it's important I keep my breasts drained and I'm kind of paranoid about any feeling of fullness.  The morning my milk was completely in with Squeak, I had a little extra fullness that a) was uncomfortable and b) made it more difficult for Squeak to latch.  So I invited Bean in for his first long nurse.  He drained my breasts more thoroughly than Squeak or a pump could, and I haven't had a problem with engorgement since.

For whatever reason (I really haven't figured it out yet), Squeak has a lot more trouble (and, hence, causes me a lot more pain) nursing on my left side.  Bean helps me save my more sore side without having to pump.  I just offer my less sore side to Squeak more often (again, supply and demand - if I keep offering that side, he will increase its supply actually separately from the other breast), and then I have Bean nurse more often on the more sore side (since his latch is fine and doesn't cause more pain/damage).  So Bean is keeping that side empty and is also helping to keep my supply even on both sides (so I'm not visibly lopsided!). 

So, I could do without the fights.  The fights are killing me right now, to be honest.  It's so hard to have these struggles with a person I love so dearly.  I feel spent trying to pour on love, patience, attention, and a healthy dose of limits, and fighting no matter what.  We're trying various things to cope and to manage the tantrums, but I think it all just has to pass with time.  And, really, nursing isn't the problem.  Bean is two-and-a-half years old and he just got a new brother, and his routine is totally messed up with my being on restricted activity and then having the baby. 

On the one hand, I can't blame him.  On the other, I'm about ready to list him on Craig's List.  He's awfully cute.  And he's polite and tends to be easy as can be for people other than his parents... 

So, all-in-all, tandem nursing is lovely.  Toddlerhood is difficult!

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