A case of the polar vortex crazies

News flash, it’s cold.

OK, OK, I know NO ONE needed that announcement. It is just as obvious as my next statement — My kid is going stir crazy!

Like all kids stuck inside during this crazy cold snap brought to us courtesy of weather phenomenon polar vortex, Miles has a lot of penned up energy. I told my hubby — stay-at-home-dad extraordinaire — that under no circumstances is the munchkin to leave the house, even to go to the store up the street, when the temperatures are barely surpassing zero.

And Southern Indiana is certainly not the only place seeing these super-cool temperatures; many places not only have the subzero chilly weather but also several feet of snow to contend with. So there’s a lot of penned up energy from many restless toddlers and kids across the country. If only we could harness all that …

Anyway, my Facebook feed has been filled with the fun activities parents have done with their kids. Here’s some of them, some we’ve tried at home, others I’m adding to my list.

Most of these ideas could easily be found on Pinterest or with a quick Google search. The key to staying sane and curing a case of cabin fever is to think outside the box (or in some of these activities crawl right into the box!)

Salt Painting — www.oneperfectdayblog.net/2012/04/27/kids-art-raised-salt-painting/

Draw a picture with glue, pour salt over the glue, shake off excess salt, then drop water color (or water colored with food coloring) onto the salt (don’t paint).

DIY play dough — www.theimaginationtree.com/2012/04/best-ever-no-cook-play-dough-recipe.html

You can go to the site to get the directions, but this one not only provides something that the kids can play with all day but it is a fun activity to make it and depending on the kids’ age can be a great way to incorporate some learning with counting, following directions, numbers, etc.

Slime — www.tottreasuresnorthbay.blogspot.com/2012/06/slime.html

You can’t really go wrong with slime, right. We’ve never made slime at our house, but I’m thinking it needs to go on our bucket list. There’s two simple ingredients — clear glue and liquid starch. You can add food coloring to make it even more fun!

A box and imagination — www.sweetpaulmag-digital.com/sweetpaulmag/spring2011#pg78

As a parent or anyone who has ever given a kid a gift that came in a box, we’ve all quickly learned that often the box is more exciting to the child than the toy that came in it. During these bleak winter days embrace that fact. And if you are like us, we have several laying around. And I’m not just talking about big cardboard boxes (because really, how often do you just run across a refrigerator box) but any size box or other container creates a lot of opportunities. A quick gander at our recycle bin would reveal an egg carton, a cereal box or two, a cracker box, cottage cheese container, spaghetti sauce jar and a few small shipping boxes. Those items along with some help from daddy or mommy and a little duct tape could create quite the masterpiece. This site has a couple fun suggestions (hit the arrow to scroll through the pages), but use what you’ve got along with your imagination paired with your kid’s imagination and it could be a lot of fun.

This is just a tiny sampling of some of the things you can do. Honey, I’ll bring you home so liquid starch so you guys can make slime tomorrow!

What’s you go to anti-cabin fever activity? Share it in the comments, and stay warm.

Love affair with cloth diapers

big butt diaper

It’s been a more than three year relationship – me and cloth diapers. I know, my son (and only child so far) is only 2 ½ and he’s been potty trained for several months. The obvious question is why am I still obsessed and why would I start this love affair before my son was even born?

Because cloth diapers are awesome.

There are a variety of reasons I love them – benefits to the environment, health of my little guy, cost, cuteness and the network of moms it has introduced me to.

I decided before I was even pregnant that cloth diapers were to me. Anyone who knew my twin sister and me five years ago would have said, “Sarah will definitely be super green mom – cloth diapers, wipes, homemade baby food, and all that green stuff. Not Abbey. She’d never do that.”

Well, flash forward a few years.  My little guy cloth diapered until he was potty trained and a crunchy hippie baby complete with an amber teething necklace and my nephew is in sposies and living the more “traditional” baby lifestyle. Neither is a better way; they are just different. And far different than anyone who knew us a few years ago would have ever expected.

I first started to consider cloth diapers as a way to save money. Some people’s initial interest is the environment, some is the health factor and some don’t care about any of that and just think they are adorable. Well the cost factor got me started but all the others sucked me in.

surprise

Even before I understood how they worked I’d made up my mind I would do it. My mom, who cloth diapered my sister and me out of necessity 32 years ago, thought I was crazy. She was thinking it would involve safety pins, poked skin, plastic pants and stinky bins of dipes.

These aren’t you moms (or grandmothers) cloth diapers. The “modern cloth diaper” can be almost identical to disposable diaper, yet it is completely reusable. There are several different types of diapers and I won’t go into all of them; just know there are some that are as simple as disposable.

What I did was explore what diaper types there were; I visited stores to actually put my hands on them and attended a Cloth Diaper 101 class. I also talked to my sister-in-law who also used them; she was the only person in “real life” that I knew who cloth diapered at that point.

Once I figured out what I liked I started to purchase one per pay period after I got pregnant. I did have to stop myself from buying them before; but I was pretty superstitious and didn’t want anyone to buy anything until after we were pregnant.

I chose mostly pocket diapers but had a variety of different brands. And even after I had my stash well built up I had a hard time not looking (and in a few cases) buying diapers.  I even bought one after Miles was potty trained – it was an adorable owl diaper. I couldn’t resist. My only other diaper need, and I am talking need, not want, is a newsprint diaper. I am still waiting to find one within my price range.

diaper basket

Here’s a quick list of why I love my cloth diapers:

Environment – An estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used every year in the U.S. with each baby using an average of 2,788 diapers a year. That’s a TON of diapers in the landfill. And if you read a diaper package it says that all fecal matter (the baby poo) should be put in the toilet before it goes in the trash can. But how many of us actually do that with disposables? I’d say that number is extraordinarily low. That means there’s lots of poo in our landfills.

Cost – The total cost for one year of diapers, by some estimates, is more than $550. I’ve seen much higher too. And we use cloth wipes too, so that saves us an additional around $300 for the baby years. And of course there is some cost associated with cloth dipes. The upfront cost, if you were to buy all at once, can be a little overwhelming. But you can get a good stash for about $350. You can spend even less or much more. I spent about $300 but did it a little at a time.

Miles models one of his cloth diapers.

Miles models one of his cloth diapers.

Health – Disposable diapers are so absorbent because they use chemicals. They use traces of dioxin, a toxic by-product of the paper-bleaching process. It is banned in most countries; not the U.S. They also contain TBT a toxic pollutant that is said to cause hormonal issues. The super absorbent polymer uses a similar substance that was linked to toxic shock syndrome with tampon use in the early 1980s. I know the majority of kids use disposables and have NO issues, but knowing that Miles wasn’t exposed to those things constantly for two years was a comfort to me.

Cuteness – They are just so gosh darn cute! What is more adorable than a baby with a fluffy cloth diaper booty? There are so many cute patterns and colors. It is so easy to get sucked into the cute factor.

Potty-training ease – Before Miles’ second birthday we had already started potty-training following his lead. And just a month after that birthday he had the hang of it. We are still working on naptime and nighttime but for the most part have the potty thing down. This is much earlier than all of my friends with little guys or gals Miles’ age. They say cloth diapered kids get the hang of it sooner and easier than those in sposies.

Introduction to healthier lifestyle – An unexpected benefit of my cloth diaper choice was the introduction it gave me to a much more natural lifestyle. One choice has led to another. I’ve met lots of like-minded mommas through all this.

With all that said, my kid’s booty has definitely been in disposables. When we travelled (other than to my moms) we used disposables. We went through a phase where we used them overnight. We used them the handful of times we struggled with diaper rash.

Of course there are some challenges – more laundry, some effort to prepare them for use and sometimes there are struggles with leaking/finding the right fit/absorbency. But we decided the benefits far outweigh the challenges.

So my quick little post about my obsession turned into a big long post. That’s what happens when you are really excited about something.

Anyway, please post questions or your thoughts about cloth diapers. I LOVE to talk about them, obviously!

 

Parent fined for “unbalanced” meal; lunch “supplemented” with Ritz crackers

A Canadian mom was fined $10 ($5 per kid) by her day care for her children’s lunch being “unbalanced.” She sent leftover homemade roast beef, potatoes, carrots, orange and milk. Because the meal lacked a grain (a requirement for each meal along with a one milk, one meat and two fruits/veggies) it was “supplemented” with Ritz crackers.

I’m not going to be delusional, my kid has gotten crackers before, even the not so healthy Ritz crackers a time or two. But I certainly wouldn’t want to count that as a “grain,” especially one that I’m charged $5 for.

Chicken, red peppers and spinach -- an example of a kind of meal Miles may have had at daycare with the addition of a fruit for dessert.

Chicken, red peppers and spinach — an example of a kind of meal Miles may have had at daycare with the addition of a fruit for dessert.

I had a similar experience with this when my son was in day care when we lived in northern Indiana. I didn’t want him to have juice, at all. And the day care served juice throughout the day. When I made the request they told me I had to have a note from my son’s doctor that said he couldn’t have juice. The reasoning — the juice was counted as a fruit that made up the “balanced” meal. I sent lunch for Miles each day — all homemade baby food and then as he got older homemade (and healthy and whole food) meals. I didn’t need juice to be his fruit. I typically sent mango, papaya, grapes, oranges, kiwi or some other actual fruit to him as opposed to a sugary fruit drink full of empty calories.

The mom referred to in this story (http://www.weightymatters.ca/2013/11/parents-fined-for-not-sending-ritz.html) said a parent could send a meal of “microwave Kraft Dinner and a hot dog, a package of fruit twists, a cheestring, and a juice box” fulfilling the nutritional guidelines.

It doesn’t take rocket science to compare that meal to one of homemade roast beef, veggies, an orange and milk and realizing which one is the healthier option.

What kinds of food issues have you come across at your child’s school or day care?

Feeding journey

Miles holding Michael's hand.

Miles holding Michael’s hand.

While I was pregnant a little more than two years ago, my mind raced about all that I would do for our little Poppy. (Miles was the size of a poppy seed when we discovered the pregnancy, so that was his nickname until we learned his gender.) There would be cloth diapers and wipes, organic homemade baby food, an owl nursery, a collection of baby carriers and slings, and of course breast-feeding.

None of those choices came with a lot of research. They were just the things that felt right to me; what I knew I wanted to do. I’d been raised by awesome hippie-esque parents that instilled green values (along with several other brilliant things). My experiences in the Peace Corps on the other side of the world in Bangladesh gave me a fresh perspective on the things we would really need. Life had led me down a more natural path.

Although I felt those were the best decisions for our family, I really hadn’t seen many in my family do most of those things before me. None of my friends had breast-fed their children; my mom didn’t breast-feed my twin sister and me. The only people I knew who had were two of my cousins, and I’d only been around one of them a handful of times when she was nursing.

It was kind of a foreign concept. And yet, I was sold.

As D-day approached I learned what I’d suspected all along — an “intervention-free” delivery wasn’t in the cards for me. About halfway through my pregnancy, I was referred to a high-risk pregnancy center in Indianapolis, not unexpected for a 30-year-old with a pacemaker. Then, about a month before my due date, they said a vaginal delivery was just too risky and scheduled a Cesarean Section.

I didn’t let this take away from my earlier plans. How could it really affect plans to breast-feed? I’d heard it might make things a little challenging, but I was determined.

BF1

The delivery was weird. I remember only being able to see my husband’s eyes peeking out between the surgical mask and cap, and they looked terrified. I felt a lot of tugging and then physical relief when Miles was pulled from me only to be replaced by sheer panic.

“Is everything OK? I can’t see him. Is he OK? What’s going on?” all in about a five-second span. He was perfect, all 8 pounds and 1 ounce of him. But I didn’t get to hold him or touch him, barely able to see him. I laid splayed out on an operating table, arms strapped down, drape just below my chin. It was more than an hour before I was able to touch him.

My first close up look at Miles.

My first close up look at Miles.

A quick kiss before he's whisked away.

A quick kiss before he’s whisked away.

My husband took him back to our room where my mom and twin sister were waiting. They all three were able to see, kiss and hold MY baby before me. It was a tough pill to swallow. But I just laid there as they stitched me up, knowing that soon I’d be with him, and we would start our breast-feeding journey.

When I got back in the room, a nurse helped with the first feeding. It was frustrating for both Miles and me, but we got there. It was like that every hour or so. We played the latch game, him rooting around, me trying to just regain the feeling in my lower half.

Tired, sore but happy!

Tired, sore but happy!

Those first two days in the hospital, my son kept losing weight, ounce after ounce. They told me, “No worries, all babies lose weight.” But Miles flew past the expected 8 to 10 percent weight loss mark. They warned me that if he lost much more, we would need to supplement.

First family portrait.

First family portrait.

The words brought tears. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t feed my own child. I was starving him. I’d started using a breast pump two days in and continued for the next nine months. He did lose more, at one point dipping below seven pounds. We supplemented with tiny bits of formula that he received through a device called a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). The system worked by providing pumped breast milk or formula through a tiny tube that was taped on my breast. So it was like Miles was actually nursing.

Throughout our nine-month nursing journey we encountered a lot of obstacles. I remember hearing from people, “The reason he’s crying is because he’s hungry. Give him a bottle. I’m sure he’s not getting enough from you.” I recall the nights where Miles would take almost an hour to nurse and after I pumped (which I did following every feeding) I had only 45 minutes before the cycle started all over again. I can’t forget the countless trips back into the hospital for lactation consultations; tears of defeat and joy over ounces of precious weight lost or gained.

I was taking fenugreek supplements, enough to make my urine smell like maple syrup (Seriously, it was pretty nuts!). I ate oatmeal every day and drank more pineapple juice than I’d like to admit. I attended weekly breast-feeding support groups trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, why the process just wasn’t clicking for us. I struggled with a nipple shield, soreness, low supply, nursing strikes and blocked ducts.

Co-workers, the publisher’s assistant and story sources walked in on me as I pumped in the newsroom bathroom three to four times a day. In the process I would only net enough milk for a feeding, maybe two if I was lucky. I took my pump everywhere. I pumped at a Colts game, in our car during date night, on road trips, in a garage during a birthday party and in a custodian’s supply room during a charity bingo game.

I wanted it to work so badly. But it didn’t. My husband and I had a trip planned to Louisiana when Miles was nine months old. My supply was nearly gone, and Miles fought nursing because he wasn’t getting milk quickly enough. I decided to let it go. And I accepted it.

Although initially I saw it as a failure, I realized that I was doing what was best for our son, feeding him the best way I could.

DSC_0054

Now, when baby No. 2 comes along, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve seen the mistakes that I made and the things that I will do differently. But if we face a similar outcome, I hope I come around to the same feeling — as long as you are feeding your child the best way that you can, you have succeeded.

Share your experiences here. And be sure to check out our stories on breast-feeding Sunday where we talk to several area moms about their feeding choices and journey and hear what the local hospitals are doing to become designated by the World Health Organization as Baby-Friendly.

Mommy Wars

Judging — we all do it, you do it, your sister does it, your best friend does it, your mom did it and so did your grandma.

Some of us may do it more than others and some of us may do it quietly and to ourselves.

In this digital age the concept of Mommy Wars is real, and it can be real nasty too. I’m not sure if it is because we all put what it is we are doing with our families out there making it easier for people to pass their judgement or if the ease of anonymity makes being nasty and judgemental too simple.

Being a mommy is hard enough. Please, support each other, don’t judge and react negatively.

We all make our choices for a reason, we think it is best for our family. Things like how you choose to feed your children — formula, breast milk or a combination of the two. Or later on, jarred baby food, organic jarred baby food, homemade baby food or the new to me Baby Led Weaning concept.

It’s like I’m parenting, like we all are really, in a fish bowl. When my mom had my sister and me I don’t think anyone knew or cared how she fed us. Public parenting was only something that happened in public places like the park or a grocery store. Now it happens 24/7 via the internet.

ab and miles

I know we all make those public parenting choices, but it is what EVERYONE is doing. I blog about parenting here. I share stories and pictures on Facebook to help family and friends spread out around the world keep up with me and my family. I interact in online parenting/natural living blogs and sites.

Most moms tirelessly research what it is that they decide is both best for baby and works for the family. In my house, I nursed Miles but supplemented with formula up to nine months when we went to formula only. And at six months we started adding homemade baby food made from a mix of organic and non-organic fruits, veggies, beans and chicken.

It wasn’t as if my Facebook status read: breastfeeding and supplementing but I’m sure those things came up in conversation either online or in person. And there were times that I turned to online support groups for advice on my feeding journey with my son. Many times though, instead of receiving comfort and support I received judgement.

“Why aren’t you exclusively breastfeeding your child? Breast is best!” “You should try relactating!” “Why are you going back to work so quickly, that is damaging your breastfeeding relationship!”

And I know the judgement goes both ways. I’m sure there are judgemental comments made by the formula feeding community to those breastfeeding. I’ve certainly seen much said about those nursing in public or nursing beyond a year.

Can’t we all as moms just say, “Maybe that choice isn’t what I did for my baby, but the ultimate goal is for a happy and healthy baby and mom. If that comes through breast milk, great. If it is formula, that’s fine too.”

And this topic isn’t the only one to create sharp divides in the mommy world — there’s attachment parenting, baby wearing, crying it out, co-sleeping, Tylenol, vaccines, the list goes on and on. And these are just the baby things. I’m venturing into toddlerhood and beyond and I know the mommy judging doesn’t stop at 1 or 2. There’s the issue of public versus private versus homeschooling; whole foods or Kraft Mac-n-Cheese… You get the picture.

But again, we all do it. We all judge. I’m thinking “judge” isn’t the right word for it; there is such a negative connotation to that word, as there should be. But I can’t think of an acceptable substitute for “it’s OK to not agree with the other person’s choice and to think yours is better but it is not OK to have that feeling affect your feeling about the other person.”

The adage, “agree to disagree” is perfect here.

Remember, we are all walking the tireless and at times so difficult journey of mommyhood (or daddyhood) so let’s give love and support, not judgement and contempt.

What parenting choices have you made that you felt were judged harshly? How did you deal with those?

 

My first veggie

I started my first container “garden” (if you can count six veggies and two flower a garden) several weeks ago. We are currently renting so I didn’t want to dig up an actual garden so I have four heirloom tomato plants, one cherry tomato and an eggplant in pots  all lined up in the one spot that gets sun in our side yard.

Miles also planted sunflowers and zinnias from seeds in a couple pots. We put a mint plant (courtesy of my awesome editor) in the ground along with a small spearmint plant I bought at the Farmer’s Market.

Everything is growing quite well but I hadn’t seen the “fruits of our labor” yet. I was happy to see the plants get bigger and stronger and the flower seeds to have popped into tall green plants but hadn’t seen any flowers yet.

Just a few days ago I noticed the eggplant starting to bloom with beautiful purple flowers and the tomato plants had a few yellow flowers. And when I checked them closer yesterday while watering I noticed an eggplant has begun to sprout.

eggplantYou would have thought I found a buried treasure. I’m yelling to my husband, “Come see, come see!” I sounded like Miles when he wants us to check out his newest adventure.

Exciting stuff. Granted, this tiny little eggplant wouldn’t make much of a parmigiana so I’ll let it grow a little longer. Wonder how long until we get another?

Do you have a garden? Is gardening an activity you do with your family? Miles has enjoyed being a part of this project.

Cloth diaper obsession

If you check out today’s Features section of The Courier and Press you will see a story about the Great Cloth Diaper Change. Not only is this event a neat thing for families to be a part of who already cloth diaper (how cool is it that your kid can be a part of setting a world record) but it is also an important in raising awareness about what cloth diapering is really like.

Today’s story does just that – raises awareness. Here’s the link: http://www.courierpress.com/news/2013/apr/15/evansville-great-cloth-diaper-change-designed-to/

More and more parents are cloth diapering today but there are still a ton of people who have no idea what the “modern” cloth diaper looks like, how it works and what its benefits are. Hopefully today’s story did a good job at giving readers a better idea about that.big butt diaper

I know when the photographer and I were at Little Ants for the story she was surprised about what the diapers were like. She didn’t realize how simple they really were and how much these diapers could save (both families’ budgets and the environment.) She said she planned to tell some of her friends (many in the “having baby” stage) about the diapers.

When I was pregnant with Miles (and even before) I talked about wanting to do cloth. People told me I was nuts. And deep down I thought maybe I was nuts too. I said I wanted to do cloth but I didn’t really know a whole lot myself and didn’t know if it was a commitment I could make, as well as a commitment my husband would agree to follow. I did some research and impulsively (family and friends wouldn’t be shocked to hear that) I bought a couple from the internet anxious to see what they looked like in real life.

I anxiously waited for them to arrive and was shocked at how simple they really were. But there were still tons of questions. Thankfully, I found a cloth diaper store in my area (Indianapolis at the time) that offered a cloth diaper class. I signed up and was so grateful for the opportunity to have someone explain and demonstrate all the different types. As helpful as the internet can be, there is only so much reading one can do and seeing it in “real life” makes it seem so much easier.

As my pregnancy went on I continued to slowly stock up on diapers buying one or two a pay period. My family helped by getting a few. On average a cloth diaper is $20 or less (you could spend a lot more or a lot less, but this is a good middle ground.) That may seem like a lot, but when you consider that you spend about $20 a week in disposables it puts it into perspective.diaper basket

That disposable budget NEVER ends until the baby is potty trained. But with cloth, you could spend $20 a week for 18 to 24 weeks and then be done. And those cloth diapers will last through several children or could be passed down to friends or family.

Another barrier in the cloth world is the idea of poop. It is such a scary concept (until you have children). No matter what, cloth or disposable, you are going to get poop on you. I don’t want to belabor this topic; but it really is a HUGE barrier for people.

You don’t put the diaper in the toilet, swirl or anything else like that. If the child is exclusively breastfed the diaper goes directly into the pail, bag or whatever system you have. If the baby is eating formula or once the baby starts to eat food you take the poopy diaper to the toilet and knock the solids in. THAT’S IT! Yes, there are some diapers where this is a little more challenging, but I promise it isn’t that tough. And plus, this is what you are SUPPOSED TO DO if you have disposables anyway. It is against the law to put human waste into the landfill and it is on diaper packages to dispose of human waste before putting the diaper in the trash.surprise

We wash diapers every three days meaning I have an extra two loads of laundry a week. I don’t really notice it.

No more poop, promise.

We haven’t even talked about the most important part – the benefits to baby. Cloth diapers are made of, well cloth. Soft cloth. Instead of scratchy paper stuffed with chemicals that form gel beads full of you child’s urine, the baby’s bottom is wrapped in cotton, wool, microfiber, hemp or some other kind of fabric. One of the chemicals that was pulled from tampons – sodium polyacrylate – for a possible link to Toxic Shock Syndrome is one of the main ingredients in disposables.

And disposables are one of the worst things for the environment. The amount of oil required to produce them is ghastly and the suckers NEVER biodegrade (OK, the probably eventually do, but we are talking hundreds, if not thousands of years).

OK, I’m done with my soapbox. And while my passionate discourse on cloth diapers may make you think I’m a cloth nut and judge all disposable wearing people you are nuts. None of my close friends or family (a sister-in-law did until my nephew recently potty trained) do cloth and I still love them all and think they are wonderful parents!

Miles has had a few stints in disposables himself, we use them when we travel and (gasp) we even put him in one every night.

I just hope people give them a chance; even if you decide it isn’t right for you check them out. Trust me, if they were “too icky” or difficult I don’t think my husband would be on board. He changes more diapers than me these days and doesn’t complain one bit!

What are your thoughts about cloth diapers? Have any questions for me?