Friday, November 26, 2010
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
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
Guess what I want for Christmas!! (Bonus: these shoes are generally much less expensive than those I've been buying!)
Monday, November 22, 2010
A load of diaper laundry and the dude who kept me company while I folded it.
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
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 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 bacteria...so 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
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
I swear this post is hippy parenting-related. At least tangentially.
The only screen-time Bean gets is nature videos (and other documentary-type things...like 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 young...so 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.
WHY NOT LET ME JUST WIPE HIS BUTT??? AND THEN GET THE REST HE SO NEEDS????
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.