Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Foods


Trying mashed peas (mixed with baby oatmeal) for the first time. I think about 95% of it ended up somewhere outside of his mouth.

Friday, January 28, 2011

False Humility

Ok, so this post is rather personal. But I hope that in sharing, others might be helped to recognize similar failings within themselves and be able to start rooting them out. Also, I'd like to ask any readers to offer a few prayers that I may grow to be humble in spirit, and not just in lifestyle...

As I mentioned in a previous post, Tom and I are renting the house we live in now, and recently renewed the lease for another year. It wasn't exactly what we wanted to do, but we pay so little for this place, and we still can't afford to pay any more than what we do. Recently, I have noticed the same sort of phrases creeping into our conversations. Remarks like, "ugh - I can't wait until we have a bigger living room, so we can actually invite people over sometimes" or "it will be so nice one day to have a backyard we can actually do stuff in" or "I really wish we had a linen closet for all these towels." Just lots of wishful thinking. By simply paying attention to the way we discuss our house, I've realized that we've been fooling ourselves. We really aren't content with what we have. That's a dangerous way to live. But I think in our case, it was an especially needed wake-up call. Because too often, I think we tend to pride ourselves on how well content we are with living in more humble circumstances than we really want to. But see, that's just it - if the whole time we are wanting for more, than we were really never experiencing true humility to begin with.

It's true that money is tight right now. But just because we live - in some regards - in a humble manner (purchasing a lot of things second hand, renting a cheap house in a cheap neighborhood, repairing instead of replacing)...it doesn't necessarily make us humble. True humility means being not only satisfied with little, but also....well, I guess being thankful for that little that you have. To be aware that you are dependent on God for everything.

And of course, being humble doesn't just refer to having or not having a lot of money. Even wealthy people can be truly humble. But I bring it up in the context of material wealth/objects because I think it's an area in which I sometimes perceive myself to have humility, when in reality, I probably do not.

I have noticed myself too often tempted to feel PRIDEFUL about my "humility" (two words which are exactly opposite!). To actually think I am somehow better than other people who spend more money on things than we do. Maybe I'm being a bit hard on myself, but I wonder if sometimes the comments we make to our friends about how we snagged a great deal on something at a thrift store, or how we can't afford to move yet this year are actually some weird way of almost bragging about how good we can be at "living humbly"? Perhaps some people do spend more than they should, or they do value material objects too much. But that's not for me to judge. It's obvious that I must not truly be content with our lifestyle, if I can't be fully content with others having higher living standards than we do.

I've noticed this recently in regards to baby objects. It's amazing how many products and furnishings are designed especially for babies. And yeah, people could probably get by without most of these. But at the minimum, I think most parents will probably want: a crib, a cradle/bassinet, a changing table, a dresser to keep baby clothes, a highchair, a stroller, a car seat, and of course clothes and blankets. In addition to that, they might want a bookshelf for kid books, any of the moving baby devices: swing, bouncy chair, walker/jumparoo, a baby tub, an assortment of toys and books, and any number of other little things for hygeine, safety, etc.. If everyone bought all those things, and bought them new, they would have to spend a FORTUNE. And what kills me is that a lot of parents do. I know for a fact that if people are willing to look, and willing to accept something secondhand, they can get a lot of baby items for dirt cheap. And every time I see other parents buying top-of-the-line strollers or brand-new matching baby furniture sets for over a thousand dollars, I automatically think less of them. I know I shouldn't. But this is exactly the false humility I'm talking about. I wonder if there's also an element of jealousy to the pridefulness...

In the past few days, I've been trying to attack these prideful feelings in small ways. I had a talk with Tom about the dangers of our wishful thinking, and about how just because we try to save money and get good deals on things we can't let ourselves think less of those who don't do the same.

I also realized that I was never really "putting my all" into my housework, simply because I knew that this house is just temporary. I mean, I've always been good about doing laundry and dishes, and those day-to-day things. But scrubbing out the bathtub good and hard? Dusting the baseboards or deep-cleaning the floors? Why would I want to waste my time and energy on a rental? I'll save that for my future home - a place we own. I've realized that this was, of course, only ADDING to my discontent with the current place. As a wife, and especially as one who has chosen to stay home and not work full-time (thus being, by definition, a "housewife"), I truly believe it is a part of my Vocation to care for my home - to keep it clean and welcoming and comfortable. And I see now that I haven't been letting myself think of this place as truly "home," and therefore have not valued it for what it is. It doesn't matter whose name is on the ownership papers. Wherever a family lives and loves - there is Home. [someone should quote me on that! ;-)]

So I've now been going to town on the scuffed-up walls (with my awesome Mr. Clean Magic Erasers), scrubbing the back of the toilet, wiping down the lightswitch plates...all the little tasks I expected to save for my "real home." Because for now, this is my real home, and taking care of it is one way I can serve my family. And besides, if I don't get into these habits of thinking and acting now, I may find myself never wanting to live up to my duties.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Indian Food = SO GOOD

On Saturday, Tom and I went to the Strip District, Pittsburgh's local market area. We thought it'd be especially bustling, with the Steelers in the playoffs the next day (since lots of venders there sell Steelers gear, and people would want to be stocking up on food for game-watching parties), but the frigid weather meant that there was just the normal amount for a Saturday crowd (which is pretty packed anyways). When we left the house at 10:30 in the morning, it was only 5° out. There was no way we could push a stroller through the narrow sidewalks between stalls, so we put Sly in the Baby Bjorn, wearing about fifty layers of clothes to make sure he stayed warm. And boy, did that make a scene! Seriously, four out of every five people we passed pointed and "aww'd" or stopped to laugh at the sight of Tom with Sly. Everyone just got such a kick out of it, and I know Tom enjoyed the attention too.

Sunglasses because it was very bright out.

The main reason we decided to take a trip to the Strip was to locate some less-common spices we needed for a couple Indian recipes we wanted to try out. The Strip District has tons of little ethnic stores with all sorts of crazy ingredients. If you need anything out of the ordinary for cooking, you are pretty much guaranteed to find it there.

We chose two recipes to make: Chicken Vindaloo, and Pullao With Peas (a seasoned rice dish). The recipes came from a cookbook called Curried Favors, which gets my highest recommendation. I first heard about it from a friend. He invited us to a homecooked Indian dinner a few months ago, and his food was amazing. I asked him how he learned to cook the dishes, and he showed me the cookbook. I added it to my Christmas list, and happily received it as a gift.

So Tom and I picked a couple recipes to start with. I purposely chose a Saturday night to tackle them, because I had a feeling I would want Tom home the whole time to help me cook, or at least hold the baby so I could put all my energies into the meal. And I'm really glad we did it that way. Indian food takes time! It involves a lot of ingredients, and each ingredient needs to be prepared in some way before it's added to the food. Also, cooking Indian means many many little messes all over the kitchen, and lots of dishes dirtied along the way. The whole thing took us several hours from start to finish. Certainly not something I want to attempt every night, but definitely worth it on occasion.

On the right you can see the store-bought naan (bread) we picked up

The food, in short, was absolutely delicious. It tastes just like it was ordered at an Indian restaurant. The spices mixtures were perfect, and our home smelled that same delectable way that all Indian restaurants/Indian people's homes smell! haha. Anyways, below are the recipes we used, in case anyone wants to try them out for themselves.


Chicken Vindaloo
adapted from Maya Kaimal MacMillan's Curried Favors

2 lbs. boneless/skinless chicken thighs OR 3 lbs. with bone and skin
**Spice mixture:
6 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
**
1/4 c. white vinegar
2 c. thinly sliced onions
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. minced ginger
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 3/4-in. cubes (about 1 cup)
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds, coarsely ground with mortar and pestle
1 c. chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned), drained
1/4 canned unsweetened coconut milk
2-3 green chilies (serrano, Thais, or jalapeno), split lengthwise
2 tsp. salt

~Trim boneless thighs of fat and cut into 1 1/2-in. chunks. If you have bone-in thighs, trim fat and skin, and cut into 2 or 3 pieces each, leaving bone in.
~ Rub chicken with spice mixture and vinegar and let stand for 30 min.
~In Dutch oven over medium-high heat, fry onion in oil until edges are nicely browned. Add garlic and ginger and stir for 2 min. until onion is medium brown.
~Add potato, mustard seeds, tomatoes, coconut milk, chilies, and salt and stir for 2 minutes. Add chicken and 1/2 c. water and bring to boil.
~ Lower heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes, or until chicken and potatoes are done. Sauce will not be thick.

My Notes: We used 2 serranos for the chilies. They added a good flavor with just the right amount of spice (i.e. I am a wimp about spicy foods. I could tolerate it, but JUST. Tom could have gone with a third chili in there.) We simmered it for 40 minutes, but the potatoes were definitely not done yet. I would recommend partially pre-cooking the potatoes before adding them in, so that it takes less time to cook. We bought all the spices at a Greek store, and the coconut milk at a Chinese store. But you could probably find all of them at a nice supermarket. The book also has recipes for a shrimp or pork version of this dish, which I'm sure are also amazing.


Pullao With Peas
adapted from Maya Kaimal MacMillan's Curried Favors

1 medium onion, sliced
2 T. vegetable oil
1-in. piece cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed to break pods
1/8 tsp. turmeric
3 1/2 c. water
2 c. basmati rice
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. frozen peas, thawed

~ Rinse rice in a large bowl with water, draining and refilling until water is not cloudy. Drain completely.
~In large pan over medium-high heat, fry onion in oil until it becomes light brown. Add the four spices and stir 1 minute.
~Add water, rice, and salt and bring to a full boil. Cover with tight-fitting lid, reduce heat to very low, and cook 20 minutes.
~ Without removing lid, turn off heat and let sit 5 minutes. Stir in peas and recover. Let sit 5 minutes.

My Notes: The recipe in its standard form uses just "long-grain rice", and offers an alternate method for using basmati rice. This is all I provided here because, really, basmati rice is so much tastier.


Happy cooking!

Camera Cursed

A lot of little things have happened recently, and I meant to share some of them on here, complete with photos. But most of those pictures had to get scrapped, after I made a startling realization: my camera is a total piece of junk! It used to be a great camera. A wonderful camera. I'm certainly no photographer. I really have no clue what dials to turn or settings to choose to make pictures look nice when there are different amounts of light or movement, or whatever else. But this camera was magical. It just took beautiful pictures all by itself. And even the "special features" were really user-friendly, so I could figure out what to change in some circumstances to get a slightly better shot. For the duration of this story, I'll refer to this camera as my Canon (since, duh, that was the brand).

One day, after about a year and a half of excellent service, the lens decided it didn't want to telescope out when the camera was turned on. It made this awful grinding noise as it tried to come out, but always stopped halfway, turned around, and went back in. The screen read simply "lens error," and nothing I tried would make it work again. I took it back to the store (Best Buy. ugh), where I was informed that the warranty had expired (don't things ALWAYS break just after the warranty expires?!), and that if it could be fixed, it would cost some ridiculous amount, not even worth the cost of the camera. That I should just buy a new one. ugh. I hate this disposable society we live in! Things should not be made to be unfixable!

Anyways, I reluctantly bought a new camera. A rather cheap one, not as nice as the Canon. This was my Samsung. I figured it would be a temporary solution. I felt like I couldn't last for months without a camera at all. So I got a low-end one, in hopes that I could start saving up money to buy a really nice one down the road. But I didn't anticipate that before that happened, I would end up getting married, and have to stop spending money on unnecessaries.

Anyways, the Samsung is a terrible camera. I regret ever buying it. The most frustrating of its deficiencies is when you're trying to take a picture of people who are backlit. The camera registers that there is a lot of light coming towards it, so it REFUSES to use the flash. Which means that in your photograph, you see just the dark silhouettes of your subjects against a bright background. grr. I used that camera for a long time, always frustrated with it.

Then sometime early this summer, I was so desperate, I decided to give my beloved Canon one more shot. I think I actually prayed that it would somehow miraculously work again. I dug it out of the box in the basement which I affectionately term my "electronics graveyard," and hit the "on" button. And the little lens telescoped out, smooth as could be. No "lens error" anymore!! I was ecstatic, and began taking lots of pictures again, so pleased that I once again had a great camera, and didn't even have to spend any money.

But alas, things were not to remain so perfect. I'm not sure when it started happening....but that Canon was secretely taking awful pictures under my nose for months. I really don't understand how I missed it. But now when I look back at photos I took of Sly in the hospital, it makes me want to cry (note that I say "want to." But I refrain from crying, because really...it's silly to let yourself get upset about things like that). The quality is AWFUL. The pictures are all so grainy.

grainy


grainy

sooo grainy

This really only because clear when I recently received a shipment of photos I had printed through Snapfish. The ones taken with my Canon looked terrible compared to the ones printed from the files given us by our doula, Bethany [ standing with me in the second picture above]. Her pictures are a billion times better, as below.

Okay, I look terrible in this picture, but I suppose I'm allowed to, since I'd just given birth. But I love the expression on Tom's face. He looks like an excited little kid, saying, "look at what we just made!"

It may not be as easy to tell on a computer screen, but when printed, it's very clear how low the quality is on my pictures. Seriously, how did it take me five months to notice this?? So, with much disapointment, I have been forced to retire the Canon yet again, and break out the Samsung. Sigh.

I think what it mostly comes down to is this: I am a terrible photographer. I really don't know what I'm doing, and probably don't have the patience to fool around with all the settings every time I want to take a pictures. That's why I search for a magical camera that will just do it all for me. But even if such a camera exists, I can't spend the money on a new one now. So I need to just be content with this Samsung.

And wow, that whole post ended up being just about cameras. I swear, when I started, I was planning to write about all those little events I mentioned at the beginning. Ah, well.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Confession

I was wearing Sly in the sling today, and trying to return some folded clothes to a really high shelf in the closet. I had to jump in the air to get them up there, and when I did...his head SMACKED the door frame. Boy did he scream. And boy, did I feel guilty.

And now he has a little bump on his head. And it's my fault :-(

I checked some online messageboards about it, though, and apparently, lots of parents have dropped or bumped their babies in ways much worse than I did, and they ended up being just fine....mehh.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The March For Life


Today is the date of the March For Life in Washington, D.C. I've only been able to participate a few times, but I always find it a rewarding experience. I don't like going so much to "show my support" for the pro-life cause, as to be spiritually refreshed by it (a selfish motivation, perhaps). It's so easy to get depressed when everyone you meet and everything you see in the news or Hollywood is just more reinforcement for the beliefs of the Culture of Death. At the March for Life, I'm always reminded that there are still many people fighting the good fight, and promoting Truth. That I'm not, afterall, alone.

There was no way I could attend this year. Even though I don't have the usual obligations of school or work, I have my little man to take care of. I used to think it would be really awesome to bring children on the March. And maybe it will be - one day. But there are so many difficulties involved in bringing him this year. We'd have to ride together on a charter bus with one of the local church groups. Would I bring his car seat? Hold him during the 4-hour ride? What if he cried the whole time? Then for the March, would he ride in a stroller (another thing I'd have to take on the bus), or would I carry him in the Baby Bjorn (talk about being sore afterwards!)? Then there's the freezing weather to contend with - really don't want to have my baby outside for hours. And, maybe the biggest deterrent, what happens when he gets hungry? I can't just nurse him during the March! Yeah, so it just wasn't going to work. Maybe next year.

Recently, I've come across some powerful posts/articles about abortion. Like this and this.

With these things in mind, it spurred me to start a conversation with a particular person about abortion. This person is a devout Catholic, and I remarked that they did not seem to get that "fired up" about about the issue, which surprised me. They* responded with: "Yeah, of course abortion is wrong and terrible, but - I hate to say it - what can you do about it? People are still going to get abortions. You have to face it that the culture is heading down a path of corruption. It's going to keep getting worse, and there's nothing you can do. It would be like trying to stop a freight train. I think at this point, we basically are just waiting for the Second Coming."

Whoa, now. My response was this: "It may be true. Maybe things ARE just getting worse and worse. But I have to believe that the very thing Satan hopes for us to do is say, 'well, there's nothing I can do to change things. So I'm just going to do nothing.'"

It takes a certain kind of person to be able to change culture in a big or sweeping way - to influence many, and help change hearts. And I think very few are called by God to do that. But that doesn't mean that the rest of us don't have a responsibility as well. I continued my response by saying, "If what we're doing is waiting for the Second Coming, then we need to be as prepared as possible, and help others to be prepared. No, I'm probably not going to be able to effect much change to the culture, but I can do my very best to raise my children to know and love God. And I can share Truth with other people in my life, in hopes that it will maybe help them in some small way to get closer to God."

The person went on to say that abortion wasn't as black and white as people make it seem. That most people who get abortions truly don't believe that it's a person, so for them, it might not represent as grave an offense.

My thoughts on that comment....Well, first of all, it is a person, and whether or not someone accepts that fact, abortion still constitutes a serious EVIL, and it needs to be stopped. Even if someone could receive an abortion free from all culpability (They were mentally unstable, and unaware of their actions, let's say) - even though they may not be actually committing a sin themselves (and let's say their method of abortion was self-induced - by taking some sort of drug - so as to remove the abortionist from this equation), it is still WRONG. Always.

Also, I really don't believe that most people truly think an unborn child is not a person. This is so maddenly obvious when you just hear the language that people use when referring to that child, dependent solely on whether or not it is WANTED. Those who have an unplanned, unexpected, and unwanted pregnancy refer to the baby as a "clump of cells," "pregnancy tissue," "embryo" or "fetus." They talk about not being ready to be a parent and how it would be unfair to carry "it" to term (this one really gets to me. What would be unfair is not giving your child a chance at life in the first place). They talk only about the woman's life and how it will be forever changed - in a negative way - if she has a baby.

But as soon as someone finds themself pregnant intentionally [and this is usually how it works these days. It's all very carefully planned out. After years of using birth control, partying and "having fun," getting to know yourself, getting to know your spouse (which really, you should have done before you married him or her), accumulating the little luxuries and the money you think you need, taking expensive vacations.... Then it's thought, "Now it's time for me to have a kid. I DESERVE to have a child. This is my RIGHT, and I will use whatever means possible to GET one."], the language used is different. Now they are pregnant with a baby, and expect congratulations for getting that way. They are "expecting." They start thinking of themselves as a mom, a dad. It would, of course, be weird and impersonal, to call it now a fetus. They change to a language of personhood, because - as soon as a child is wanted - most people DO truly think of it as a person. It kills me that our legal system can sentence criminals for double homicides when they kill a pregnant woman (okay, so the baby WAS a person. "homo" = man, "cide" = to kill), and then allow abortions simultaneously (so wait....Killing people is okay...if it's the mom who chooses to do it? or...baby's aren't actually people, like you just said? Huh?).


We can't give up the fight. Even when it seems hopeless.
When the world around us is going to crap.
We need to remember that we already know Who will win in the end.
DEFEND TRUTH.


And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” (Gn 4:10)




*Please excuse my knowingly erroneous use of "they" to represent a gender-unspecified individual

Friday, January 21, 2011

Big Anniversary

The in-laws have their 30th anniversary coming up. That's a pretty important one. My own parents only made it to twenty years. And when they got divorced, I think I was still too young (14) to realize that children sorta have a responsibility to "recognize" the date their parents got married. So I've really never put much thought into other people's anniversaries before. But now that I'm married and have a kid, it's time to act like a real adult on this matter!

We'd like to get Tom's parents something nice, but we're having a tough time thinking of the right gift. Tom has one sister, and she plans to go in on the cost of something with us. I really think the best bet would be to give them the gift of an "experience" rather than something material. We can't afford to send them on a trip anywhere...but maybe a day trip to do something fun? Something they've never done before, ideally. We had been thinking about getting them a hot air balloon ride. But we had Tom's sister "feel out the waters" on that idea by pretending that she and her boyfriend were thinking about it. And Tom's mom made it clear that she thought it sounded dangerous and scary. Soooo, we had to scratch that one.

They live near Philadelphia...there's got to be interesting things to do there, right? Or in nearby areas (The Pocono Mountains, NYC, Washington, D.C....eh, I don't really know anything about that end of the state!). If anyone has some suggestions, I'd really appreciate them!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cognition Study

Sly has another bad cold. For the past two nights, he's slept next to me in bed. Basically, it's the same story as a few weeks ago (see post: First Illness). He keeps coughing, which startles him awake, and then he cries and won't fall back asleep. On Tuesday night, he was up about once every 20 minutes, but was easy to soothe back to sleep. Last night, he woke up only a handful of times, but was very difficult to calm down each time. He just cried and cried. So much so, that even Tom was woken up by it (!!!), and managed to be helpful in getting him back to sleep a few times.

Before Sly was born, I was sure that I would never let my baby sleep in the bed with me. Every baby book or website you read, and all the health professionals you talk to try to pound into your head that it's basically the MOST DANGEROUS THING EVER, and to consider it would be scandalous. Early on, we were really careful about it. Before he was sleeping through the night, we did the whole cradle right-next-to-the-bed deal. When he cried, I nursed or calmed him, then returned him to the cradle. But as I lost more and more sleep, I became less and less able to ensure that I stayed awake long enough to get him back into his own little bed. Soon, I found myself accidentally falling asleep while he was nursing. I guess it was really my fault,since I would just scoop him in next to me, never actually sitting up in the bed. When I would wake up a few hours later, there was my little baby, snuggled in next to me! Safe and sound.

So now when it makes sense to have Sly in the same bed, I don't worry about it. Having him next to me forces me to sleep on my side (I much prefer stomach sleeping). This way, I'm able to cradle him and protect him - either from rolling off the edge of the bed if he's on the outside, or from getting rolled on by Tom if he's on the inside. The ideal situation, of course, is having him in his own room. But when he's sick and waking up constantly, I just can't keep trekking back and forth all night.


Yesterday, Sly participated in a study at the Infant Cognition Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. I had seen a flyer at the library about how they need babies for different studies all the time, so I contacted them. It sounded like a potentially fun experience. I also had this vision of myself being able to tease him about it one day: "Hey son, when you were little, we put you into psychological studies. ha ha ha."

The whole thing was pretty quick and simple. The research student brought us into a little room, and put Velcro mittens onto Sly's hands. I was just supposed to keep him sitting in my lap the whole time, while the experiment was being filmed. The girl put out a tray with some Velcro balls on it. Sly had three minutes wherein he would be observed as he played with the balls. It was pretty amusing, though, because for at least the first two minutes, all he did was look at her and smile, and occasionally crane his head backwards to smile at me. I was silently giggling the whole time. Even though she really wasn't supposed to offer any "help," the researcher eventually pointed out the balls to Sly - I guess so that she could actually get some sort of useful data! Once he got the mittens hooked onto the balls, he just flailed his arms around, causing them to detach from the mittens and roll away. And then he sat there, happily chewing on the mittens. hehehe - I still giggle now, remembering it.

After the "playing" phase, she pulled a dark curtain around us and turned out the lights, making the only real focal point a video screen. She put on a five-minute cartoon of a little baby arm wearing a mitten and touching balls. It was really boring for me, but Sly seemed interested. Well, most of the time, anyways. I really don't know what the whole study was testing, but I do know that the purpose of this second phase was to measure how long he actually paid attention to the video. The research student was watching him in the camera, and clicking a button to record when he looked towards or away from the screen. And then it was over. Maybe ten minutes total.

I mostly signed him up for this because I thought it would be an interesting experience. I've read results and summaries from plenty of cognitive or developmental studies of babies and children, but I've never actually seen one carried out. If they asked us to come back for another one, I would definitely consider it. There was no monetary compensation for it. However, they did give us a free baby t-shirt.


The shirt is sort of dumb. I mean, being a scientist and being a subject in a scientific study are two very different things. But it's still cute, I suppose, and I expect he'll wear it once the weather turns more appropriate for t-shirts.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Baby Updates

1. Sly's forehead has been looking terrible recently. It started out as "cradle cap," which is a common skin condition for babies. It's basically just a rash/dry skin on their head. For him, it was all concentrated on the forehead, rather than elsewhere on the scalp. For a few weeks, he just had little red bumps and some flaky skin. No big deal. But then, somewhere along the way, his instinct to scratch himself kicked in, and the whole thing got out of control.


We didn't understand at first what was causing it. His forehead wouldn't be too bad when I put him to bed, but in the morning when I went to get him, his forehead would be all cut up and bleeding. I thought maybe the cold/dry weather was making it crack, and I started putting lotion on it. Then one time, I caught him scratching in his sleep. And I mean, he was really going to town. So we started making sure his hands were covered every night by the hand flaps on his (adorable little) bunting suit, in addition to moisturizing it each day. His forehead started looking much better. The speed at which babies heal is truly astounding....

But now he's begun to scratch when he's awake. And we can't always catch him time. I keep his nails trimmed as short as I'm able, but they're so tiny and hard to cut! We bought some mittens for him, but I really hate to put them on him while he's awake. I waited so long for him to get old enough to start "using" his hands. He loves to grab things with them, or stick them in his mouth. I don't want to prevent his exploration. So I guess for now, I just have to try to be vigilant of where those little hands go, and try not to feel bothered when other people see his beat-up face and wonder what on earth I've been doing to my child.


2. Sly is becoming so much more "talkative" now. It's pretty cute usually - I love that he is learning to make sounds now that aren't just angry screams. But I've noticed a trend to the times he chooses to practice his voice. The two situations wherein he likes to make noise are when there's already another loud sound going on (he's trying to compete with it, maybe?), or when there's utter silence. For example, when I take a shower, I usually lay him on the bathroom rug to wait for me. Amazingly, he's perfectly content the whole time. As soon as the noise of the shower starts, so does his little baby "singing." He immediately starts up his happy chorus of "ahh ahh ahh aaAAAaa," and doesn't stop until the moment I turn off the water. I put him in the same place while I'm running the hair dryer, with the same result. These two situations are the only times Sly will just lie happily on his back. He also tends to get very talkative at parties or other places with lots of loud conversation going on.

So I've concluded that he quite enjoys loud and incoherent noise, and feels the need to add his own voice into the mix. And on the flip side of that, though, he does not like silence. He feels it necessary to fill any voids with his exploratory shrieks. This isn't a problem usually, but this weekend did present a few embarassing situations. Mass on Sunday, for one. As long as there's singing, reading, preaching, etc., he tends to be pretty quiet. We attend the Traditional Latin Mass, where much of the Mass of the Faithful ("Liturgy of the Eucharist") is silent. It seems a bit paradoxical to put it this way, but essentially, the silence "builds" up to the Consecration, which is the most important moment. So of course, this is exactly the time Sly thinks to himself, "hmm, this place is too quiet. I should liven things up a bit" and starts his happy shrieking.

He did the same thing to me later in the day when I met a student at the library for tutoring. The library is filled with quiet people on a quiet Sunday afternoon, looking for a quiet place to study. So, of course, it's the perfect place in his mind for making some noise. I really think Sly gets bored with the peace and the quiet. Maybe it's because he's a boy? I'm not sure. But I do know that I got more mean looks than I cared for, and next time I have to bring him tutoring with me, I think we'll set up at a table in the children's section.


3. On Saturday, I dragged Tom to a free "babywearing" class hosted at the cloth diaper store. Babywearing is just what it sounds like - carrying your baby on your body with some sort of device. There are various types, and as I'm not well-educated in carriers, I'm not going to go into them now. There is also a whole philosophy of Attachment Parenting that some people ascribe to, and those folks tend to wear their babies quite a bit. Also not going into that here.

I mostly signed up for the class because I had gotten a sling for Christmas, and was having a lot of trouble wearing it in a way that made me and Sly both comfortable. The women showed me several ways I could wear him in there. I think the main problem I'd been having before was that I wasn't making it tight enough at all. They said the general rule of thumb is to tighten it past the point you think it's too tight. As long as it's not painful on you, it won't be painful on the baby.

Tom was very pleased to manage to take a picture that included his wife, his son, his cat, the books, the ship, and the globe: six of his favorite things ;-)

It would definitely have been nice to have this right when Sly was born. He's always been a baby who needs to be held all the time. There have been so many times when I wanted to fold laundry, do dishes, or any other little household chore, but had to put it off until Tom got home, because I didn't want to face the wrath and displeasure of an unattended baby. Now, if he really needs to be in my arms, I can still "hold him," but do certain things around the house.

Ask a Kid

In the shower this morning, I was reminiscing a bit about about my days as a biology teacher. I was only a "real" teacher (not student teaching, or substituting) for one year. And I wouldn't be surprised if that ends up being my only year ever teaching in a regular classroom. I do hope to homeschool one day, though, so I definitely don't expect to be out of the educational realm for too long. I imagine that one day it might be amusing to my children to imagine that their mother was once a teacher in a public school. That she aspired to be a part of that whole institution, only to turn around and make the radical choice of educating her own kids outside of it.

Anyways, I was remembering this one lab activity we did (I taught 10th grade biology) about animal behavior. It seemed fairly elementary to me, and I don't think I would have used it with my students, except that all the other bio teachers were doing it, and I was expected to follow suit. We had the luxury at our school of having a lab tech woman who was hired just to help with the science labs. She would purchase materials, mix chemicals, and set up all our rooms for us. But she started becoming (more) disgruntled towards the middle of the year, and decided that she was being taken advantage of (and she was probably not wrong). So as one of her first acts of rebellion, she decided that she would not order the potato bugs* for our experiment. In previous years, she had purchased live ones from a biological supply company. But she decided that the teachers and the students were all much too lazy about the lab activities, and didn't invest enough of their own work into preparing for them. So, she told us, we had to get our students to dig them up from their backyards.

(http://backyardsafari.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/backyard-creature-feature-pill-bugs/)
These are the little guys I'm talking about


Each teacher devised his or her own form of incentive for getting the kids to actually do that. In my case, I offered one bonus point for every five bugs they brought in, up to five points. Now that I'm an adult, it's easy to imagine all my students as "kids." Surely, kids have no problem going out into the backyard and digging for bugs, right? But it was difficult to convince them to actually attempt it. After thinking about it, I realized - I probably hadn't dug for bugs myself any later than eleven years old. My students were teenagers. They cared much more about their clothes staying clean, their reputation staying "cool," and had zero interest in going through the trouble for just 5 bonus points. A few of my more adventurous and fun-loving students (bless their hearts!) did attempt to find some bugs. But each day, when I asked if anyone had brought some in, the answer was the same, "I looked everywhere, and I couldn't find any!" Oh come on, I thought. They must not be trying very hard. When I was a kid, I used to find potato bugs all the time.

So after school one afternoon, I determined to find some on my own, and prove to my students what a little bit of patience and effort could produce. I went into the backyard of my cousins' house - where I was living at the time - and dug a random hole in a garden patch....and another...and another.... They were right! There really weren't any potato bugs! What the heck? And then I had a stroke of genius. Also living under the same roof as me were my cousin's seven children, age eleven and under (who are all homeschooled themselves). I kept a pet toad at the time (named Toadbert), and the kids sometimes fed him bugs they'd caught outside. Well heck, they were bug-catching experts! Maybe they'd be able to help.

So I approached them and explained how I needed the bugs for school. "Do you know where I can find potato bugs?" I asked pleadingly. They looked at each other, nodded vigorously, and said, "yeah! follow us!" as they ran out the door. They ran me through backyards, until we arrived at the bottom of a yard a few doors down, and they pointed down at a shady patch of dirt between the ferns. I worried about digging in random people's yards, but they told me their friends lived there, and assured me it would be okay to dig in their yard, and that they did it all the time. Good enough for me. So we all started digging - me with my little spade, and the kids using sticks or just their hands. And we found so many potato bugs!

I went to school with my bounty the next day, and proudly announced to each class what I had found. Those who had been unsuccessful themselves asked how I managed to find them. And I shared with them my secret, "If you want to know where any kid of bug is, just find a little kid, and ask him. Kids ALWAYS know."




*The bugs we used are not properly called potato bugs (that's a different creature entirely), but it seems that people around here tend to refer to them as such. They are really called by one of several other names: pill-bugs, sow bugs, roly-polies, or sometimes doodle bugs. A little bio fact: pill bugs are not insects at all. They are isopods, the only land-dwelling crustacean. And some are HUGE and disgusting. It's way too disgusting to post here, so if you want to see what I mean, click this link: Giant Isopod

Monday, January 17, 2011

Overheard 2

The other day, Sly was wearing a bib that says "I Love My Mommy." From the other room, I heard Tom talking to him.

Tom: "You love your mommy? I love your mommy too!"

Friday, January 14, 2011

Morning Fright

Doesn't this sound like it could be the title and tag-line of a horror movie:


Sylvester



He's awake. And he's hungry.



Horror is about what I felt this morning, when he woke up an hour early :-/

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Composting Thoughts

I LOVE that we have single-stream recycling system in the city now! It surprises me that it's actually become available. I mean, it must cost a lot for the city to put this into place. But I suppose they've realized that very few people will make the effort of recycling when it's difficult to do (e.g. sorting everything into separate containers, washing everything completely and removing labels, different collection weeks for each item).

As far as I can remember, Pittsburgh never required people to do all those things...but it's only recently that they've started accepting so many types of papers for recycling. Until recently, Tom and I used to create astounding amounts of trash. I don't know how two people can generate so many trash bags a week, but our number was up to 4 or 5. We've always recycled, but it was just jars, cans, milk jugs...Now we can include so much more. The huge stacks of newspapers that come every week can now be put out on the curb, instead of us having to drive them to the collection bins at the church parking lots. And we can even recycle the plastic bags they come in! Then there's all the junk mail, magazines, and circulars, cereal boxes and cardboard....we still haven't filled up the regular trash can, after a whole week! All that goes in there now is styrofoam and other packaging materials, and food scraps/remains. If we had a compost pile/bin for the food remains, we could probably reduce our outgoing trash by a further 30% or so.

I really like the idea of composting, but I don't know much about it. Our backyard at this place is pretty tiny. If we built a compost area, it would probably take up half the yard AND stink it up majorly. I can just imagine the smell of rotting food wafting in my kitchen window all summer long...mmm. We might have to wait until we live somewhere with a better location. I wonder about silly little details like: how often do you need to "stir" the compost? Do people usually have a small "compost-bound" container in the kitchen, where they dump scraps as they cook? Or do people just carry things directly out to the yard?

If anyone has experience with compost, I'd love to hear some suggestions.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Things

1. Sly has started on solid foods. He's only 4 and a half months, but he seemed ready for it. There are certain things you're supposed to look for. One is that the baby is showing curiosity about food. And recently, he's definitely been watching very closely every time I'm eating, following the food with his eyes as it travels to my mouth. He's just about doubled his birth weight, which is another thing. Also, he's been much hungrier lately, and I feel as if my milk supply isn't able to keep up with his appetite!

The World Health Organization as well as The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend breastfeeding exclusively the first six months. But, both say, if you are going to start solids earlier, wait at least four months. Well, we thought it was a good time to start him now, and I don't regret the decision. We feed him a small bowl of baby cereal once a day, and he gobbles it down.

I don't have any pictures of him eating (which surprises me, actually. My first child, and I didn't feel the need to document that huge milestone?!), but here's the little high chair we rigged up to make it easier to feed him. He's nowhere near big enough for it yet. So we replaced the wooden board meant to serve as the seat with the one that's meant to serve as the footrest. And we put in a Bumbo seat, since he still can't sit on his own.

We committed so many safety "no-nos" to achieve this, so I'm not even going to mention them.

One drawback to adding solids to his diet: it is making him poop up a storm! I think that's normal...? Because his digestive system is still getting used to the new type of food. But we're going from one dirty diaper every 2-3 days to 4 dirty diapers a day! Glad we're already going to the cloth diaper store on Saturday, because our meager supply is not lasting as long as I'd like between washes!

2. Last weekend, we took down all our Christmas decorations. Since we were already making a huge mess, and moving furniture around, we decided it would be a good time to play around with how the downstairs rooms are arranged (we have just a tiny living room and huge kitchen. No dining room, unfortunately). Tom and I have both been feeling slightly bummed about having to renew our lease for another whole year. We just don't have the money to move yet. So we wanted to do something to "freshen up" our place for the new year. We tried really hard to reorganize the living room. But the space in there is so tight, that nothing else really worked at all. In the end, we resigned to just leave it (or I should say, "put it back") the way it had been before, with only the slightest change: we oriented the coffee table at a 90° turn from where it had been originally.

Our big change. haha

BUT we made a nice improvement in the kitchen. We switched the table with the microwave cart and rolling cabinet. The space is somehow just so much cozier and easier to use now. We're very happy with how it turned out. (Excuse the darkness of the photos - I foolishly waited until dusk to take them.)

Notice that we use the kitchen to house items such as baby toys and cat scratching posts. I wish we had a bigger house! You can also see here some of the paper snowflakes that are decorating our ceiling for winter.

Having the table nearer to the fridge and oven might provide a handy extra prep surface for cooking/baking.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why I Love My Husband #1


He loves to play handyman around the house, and always feels so pleased with his accomplishments.

He works really hard at his job, not because he wants to succeed and get promoted, but because he feels it's his duty.

He calls me every day on his lunch break, because he knows it's important to me.

He encourages me to take nights out with "the girls."

He calls his parents on the phone just to talk.

He never knows where his own stuff is, and always has to ask me where he put his watch or his glasses.

He lets me watch How I Met Your Mother after dinner some nights, and doesn't complain about it.

He sits at the computer with Sly on his lap, showing him Youtube videos of planes taking off, explaining to Sly what is happening.

***************************

This post is inspired by the blog More Like Mary, More Like Me. As the author Kaitlin says,

"I absolutely can't stand when women complain about their husbands. It's one thing to have an actual problem in your marriage and seek the advice, counsel, and support of a good friend. It's another thing completely to trash the man you chose to marry and spend the rest of your life with. It's not acceptable. We need to be building up our husbands with everything we have within us, not cutting them down with hurtful comments to other women. Yes, they have faults. But we don't need to expose those faults to others. We don't need to go on and on about them.

Kimberly Hahn said that we should never speak badly of our husbands because we are one flesh. If we tear our husband down, we're really only hurting ourselves. I love that.

....every conversation we have with our married friends (and non-married friend for that matter) can either tear marriage down or build it up.....It's so easy to fall into the trap of complaining about marriage. It's so easy to let little comments slide without standing up for marriage. "Is Kaitlin gonna LET you go fishing today?" "Gee, Ted seems to be gone an awful lot." Do our conversations with others affirm their marriages? Are we supportive of the crosses they carry? Do we speak highly enough of our own marriage to serve as a witness to the beauty of this awesome sacrament?"

******************************

I think she's totally right, and I intend to join her "Why I Love My Husband" posts from time to time, to remind me of what a great guy I have!

Cloth Diapering Part II: The "Hows"

Before you read this, it might be helpful to read my first post, Cloth Diapering Part I: The "Whys". As I said a few days ago, using cloth diapers has been such a great decision for us. We find that the benefits of cloth over disposables has made the extra effort worth it.


Types of cloth diapers and how they are put on
There are several styles of cloth diapers available these days. We own three different types, and since they are some of the most popular styles, those are the only ones I plan to discuss here.

Pre-folds:
Pre-fold diapers are basically as simple as they come. The open diaper is a thick rectangle which is made up of many layers of fabric sewn together to make three major sections ("folds"). The center section always has a higher ply than the outer ones. I'm pretty sure ours are 4-8-4. This concentrates the majority of the absorbency in the place it's most needed.


I didn't take pictures of the diapering process, but it's not too hard once you learn how. You lay the baby on the diaper, fold it up between his legs, and clip it at the sides. Back in the day, parents would have used diaper pins to do this. That sounds like it would be not only tedious, but pretty dangerous as well! These days, we have a wonderful invention called a Snappi. Those are the little T-shaped things in the picture. They are made of a stretchy rubber, and at the ends, they have little plastic teeth. They grip the diaper in the same way you clip an Ace Bandage with those little metal guys.

I was lucky enough to find a handsome young man who was willing to model this for you.

Notice how sloppy this is. It doesn't even matter. These diapers are GREAT at both catching solids, and absorbing liquid. But we're not done yet. If you were to put his clothes on right over the cloth, you'd have some major problems with urine wicking onto his clothing. No good. So you need to add a water-proof cover:

Voila! Now he can go about his baby-business, and it will all stay in the diaper where it belongs! This cover is just a boring white one, but they're also available in many fun colors and patterns. Covers come in two types: Velcro, or snap-fastened. We only buy the snap kind, since Velcro tends to degrade over time. We hope to have more babies, and to make these diapers last as long as possible! The extra snaps you see in the picture down towards the crotch area are another great feature - they allow the "height" of the cover to change as the baby grows. These one-size-fits-all diapers will hopefully keep fitting him until potty training.

Cost and care -
Pre-folds are the cheapest diapers. Each one is about $3. The covers cost about $12-15 each. You need approximately 1 cover for every 3 or 4 diapers. Covers get reused through several diapers, until they are pretty wet or get soiled. Most of our pre-folds came as part of a value pack from Econobum. It included 12 diapers and 3 covers for $50.The thickness of the diapers means they take the longest to dry after being washed.

Simple Pocket Diapers:
Pocket diapers are preferred by some people because they are a little easier to use. You don't have to worry about how to fold it up, or fuss with pins or Snappis. There is a waterproof diaper cover, and inside of it, you insert an absorbent pad. We use the brand Flip Diapers.


Here's the inside of the open cover. Notice we own some prettier colors for the Flips. The covers are nice because we can also used them over the pre-folds. But unlike our white covers, these have little flaps at the ends where a pad can slide under.

Why is this picture uploading sideways??

Here's the closed Flip diaper. They have a smaller profile than the pre-folds, since there's less actual "diaper" inside. Flips are nice because they're really quick to put on. They work fine for pee-only diapers. But they have a major failing: they are not good for solids. Baby poo is very liquidy. It does not just stay on the insert where you want it. It leaks off the side, and sits in the cover, sloshing around. If you don't change it very soon, it will leak out the sides and onto his clothes. Even when you catch it quickly enough, you've still blown one cover which now needs to be washed. I put Flips on Sly only when I think he's not likely to go number two (i.e. he just went). I think they are decent diapers, but I probably would not buy them again. Tom, on the other hand, HATES them. When changing a messy Flip-caused accident, he's often been heard to rage, "Gahhhh! FLIPS SUCK SO MUCH!!"

Cost and care -
A starter pack of Flips comes with two covers and 6 inserts for $50. To buy them singularly, you can get one cover with one insert for about $17, or just an extra cover alone for about $14. The insert is small, so washing and drying is easy and quick.

"High-tech" Pocket Diapers:
These are the same concept as the simple pocket diapers - you insert an absorbent pad into the diaper. But these ones have a fully-lined pocket, so the cover actually has a fabric inner liner. We use the Bumgenius 4.0 One-size Diapers.

You can see in this picture that each diaper comes with two liners. One is a normal thick one, and the other is shorter and thinner, intended for newborns. When we "stuff" the diapers after they come out of the laundry, we put both liners in. This is called "doubling" the diaper, and makes them extra absorbent. We only use these diapers at nighttime, and they last for 12+ hours with no leaks. The fabric liner and elastic around the legs holds in poo, unlike the bare covers on the Flips.

When I read cloth diapers messageboards and posts online (which I do more than I care to admit), this diaper very frequently comes out as the top favorite among most cloth diapering families. They are nice because once they've been pre-stuffed with the liner, they are a cinch to put on, and take no more time to use than a disposable one would.

Cost and care -
These diapers are pricey! It costs about $20 per diaper. And the catch is, each one only gets one use before it needs to be washed. You cannot reuse the cover multiple times, as you can with the other types of diapers. This is why we only own two of them, and save them for heavy-duty nighttime use. To wash, you have to remove the liners first from the pocket.

Bottom line:
The pre-folds and the Bumgenius diapers have proven most effective at doing their job. I'd say they are equally good as diapers. But since pre-folds cost much less to purchase, and get multiple uses out of each cover, they win our vote for best diaper for your money/time.



Where to purchase cloth diapers:
These days, you can get everything online. There are TONS of sources for cloth diapers on the internet. But if you're someone who likes to see things in person, or who is overwhelmed by all the different types, it's best to go to an actual store that sells them. In Pittsburgh, we're lucky enough to have one such store, The Happy Baby Company. They sell many different brands, and the husband/wife owners of the store are always happy to explain how each type works. Once you have an idea what types of diapers you like, they are a great store to order from, since all orders ship FREE!


Washing Cloth Diapers
This is the part that's most intimidating for people. With disposables, you wrap up the mess, throw it away, and stop thinking about it. Dealing with cloth diapers is really not too bad. There are many different methods people use for "storing" dirty diapers prior to washing, and for how they launder them. Here's what we do...


We store all clean diapers below the changing table.


When a diaper is dirty, we just toss it into a plastic shopping bag hanging over the side. Doesn't this smell? Well...yes, a little. When you walk into Sly's bedroom, you sometimes get a whiff of "diaper smell," to put it delicately. It doesn't really bother me. Some people buy water- and smell-proof bags or pails to use instead. And some people add their diapers to a wet pail so they get a pre-rinse before they are washed. Any of these methods are fine.

What about really poopy diapers? Those shouldn't go directly into the bag - ideally, the solids would get emptied into the toilet. With Sly right now, as I mentioned, the poos are very liquidy. This makes it difficult to do. We purchased something called a diaper sprayer. It is very much like the sprayers some people have on their kitchen sinks. It hooks up directly to the intake valve on the toilet so you can spray fresh water onto the diaper, and the poo all goes into the bowl. The idea behind this is pretty clever, and some people swear by this product. But I have to say, we have not found them as effective as we'd hoped. We usually end up making a bigger mess than we started with....haha. And I won't get too descriptive on that one.

(click for picture source)

Once the diaper bag is overflowing, it's time for a load of laundry. I wash diapers every three days or so, a small load each time. First, I run them through a cold rinse. I add about 1/4 cup white vinegar (I just estimate). This helps remove smells and stains. Then I run them through a hot wash with a scoop of diaper detergent. This is free of all dyes, fragrances, brighteners, and phosphates - all of which can "clog" the pores in your diapers and reduce their absorbancy.

After the wash, I hang the covers to dry and run the diapers themselves through the dryer. We use FOUR dryer balls to make it quicker and so they come out softer. Diapers can be line dried if you like.

Our diapers usually come out perfectly clean and fresh. They should smell like "nothing." A couple of them have very faint stains, probably due to sitting around too long between washes. This really doesn't bother me at all. I mean, for one, no one is going to see the diapers, since they're under the cover anyways. And two, he's just going to poop on them again! Why should it matter whether they're sparkling clean each time?

I hope this helps to clear up some of the mystery around cloth diapers. If anyone has more questions, just ask!

 UPDATE: see also my addendum to this post, a word about cloth wipes, and ways to solve ammonia problems

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Bitter Lesson

These days, a lot of people give their children "modern names." I notice that many of them derive from place-names (Savannah, Sydney) or family names (Lincoln, Harrison). I've also noticed some recurring suffixes on many of them. There are the -son names (Grayson, Madison), the -ton names (Peyton, Kingston, Paxton), the -er names (Gunner, Piper, Skyler). Tom and I do not like the idea behind most of these modern names. Not only are we traditionally-minded people to begin with, but our Catholic faith makes us desire to name our children after Saints or other holy people, instead of making up new names merely for the sake of originality.

A few days ago, feeling particularly annoyed at modern names after coming across several in a book I was reading, I sat down to compile a list. I titled it "Stupid Modern Names,"divided it into boy and girl columns (and I'll add that many times it was actually difficult for me to figure out if a name was supposed to be male, female, or both), and started searching my memory for ones I had heard. I was looking forward to sharing it with Tom later. I imagined we'd have a good laugh/sneer together, and feel a sense of bondedness over our shared distaste for modernity.

So later that night, I handed him the list with a smile. I said proudly, "look what I made." Tom glanced at the title, then looked back at me, asking, "seriously?" He began to quickly scan the list, his face falling into a frown. "You shouldn't do this," he said.

Immediately, I felt like a chastised child. I really had hoped to please my husband with my amusing little list, and here I was getting reprimanded. I no longer wanted to look him in the eye, so I angled myself slightly sideways as he continued. "Actually writing a list of things that annoy you will just make you dwell on it. It will only turn you into a bitter person. You shouldn't do that."

I knew he was right. But it never feels pleasant to get called out on something - to have to admit that your intentions weren't actually pure. I didn't respond to him. Instead, I dejectedly took back the list, and turned back to what I was doing. I just didn't know what to say.

But his words stuck with me, and I realize that I do this a lot. I often read articles about immoral things like abortion or the birth control pill, because in some disordered way, I think I enjoy feeling really annoyed and superior about things. So I plan to be vigilant about this from now on.

I'm glad I do have someone to call me out on things like this.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cloth Diapering Part I: The “Whys"

Before Sly was born, I started trying to sell Tom on the idea of using cloth diapers, rather than disposables. I had had the advantage of once serving as a nanny/babysitter to a baby who wore them, so I felt comfortable with the idea. Ultimately, the biggest selling point for Tom (and for me too) was the amount of money you can save by going that route. But after four months of cloth-diapering, we've noticed several other great benefits. For the record, we've used disposables too. We especially relied on them in Sly's first couple weeks, when babies go through many diapers a day. And we still keep some in the diaper bag for traveling.

Why we like cloth diapers:

1. They cost less.
The average cost of diapering a baby in disposables until he's potty trained is $1500-$2500 (estimates vary widely from different sources!). So far, we've spent less than $200 on all our cloth diapers and covers. And we intentionally bought ones with adjustable sizes so they will grow with the baby, so we don't expect to need many more. One
thing I haven’t accounted for yet is the cost of laundering the cloth diapers. Unfortunately, I don't have any clear facts on this one.

I have found these estimations for cost of heating the water:
Electric water heater: approx. $0.34/load
Gas water heater: approx. $0.10/load

And this estimation for water usage:
"The amount of water used per week to wash cloth diapers at home is about the same amount consumed by and adult flushing the toilet four or five times daily for a week."
http://www.thenewparentsguide.com/diapers.htm

Not hugely helpful, I admit. But I do know this: since we are currently renting our house and don't pay the water bill, it makes a lot of sense for us financially. It's recommended that you use special detergent which is completely free of all dyes, phosphates, etc. We bought a box for $11, and are only halfway done with it. Considering that we will still have all the cloth diapers from our initial investment and can reuse them for ALL our future children, there is potential for some huge savings.

2. They produce less waste.
This one is pretty obvious. Disposable diapers are one of the largest contributors to landfills. Two billion TONS a year. And it's not just the paper and plastic that's filling the landfills, but a heck of a lot of untreated urine and feces.



The waste from cloth diapers goes straight into the water treatment plants, where it belongs. And should the diapers ever finally reach the end of their life, they are at least biodegradable.

3. Fewer diaper changes.
I know this is going to sound bad. But most days, in a 24-hour period, Sly only gets four diaper changes. Yes, this means he's chilling in a wet diaper a lot of the time. But he doesn't seem to mind one way or the other, and he's had very little problem with rashes. So I don't see a need to change him more, for now. This one might vary from baby to baby, though. With disposables, we've noticed major leaking problems if he's not changed every 2-3 hours (see next item).

4. Less Leaking.
We’ve had very few leaks with cloth diapers. The few times they’ve happened, it was our fault anyways. If you don’t tuck the diaper all the way inside the cover, urine can wick onto the baby’s clothes. When we stayed with Tom’s parents over Thanksgiving, we used disposables all week, since his mom had purchased a pack of them. Sly’s diapers leaked SO MANY TIMES. I had only packed enough outfits for him to wear one each day. We ended up having to do two loads of emergency laundry, so he would have pee-free clothes to wear! So it looks like based on the number of ruined outfits, the laundry cost of disposables starts approaching the costs of cloth anyways! And that’s not to mention the up-the-back poop incidents we’ve had a couple times in disposables.

5. More comfortable.
Think about it - would you rather wear soft cotton underwear, or ones made from paper and plastic? Also, some babies have allergic reactions or develop rashes from the absorbent gel they use in disposables. They use that same weird gel stuff in the disposable breast pads for nursing mothers that catch leaks. And I know that sometimes I find it rather irritating on my skin. So do I really want that on my baby’s bum?

6. Less stinky.
This one surprised us. But when wearing the thicker cloth diapers, the “eau de baby” is much less noxious. You still know he has a dirty diaper, but you’re not overwhelmed by the stench of it as soon as you pick him up. Not a big deal, but a pleasant benefit.

7. Supposedly, potty training tends to happen earlier.
For this one, we have to just go on hearsay, since we aren't at that stage yet. But the super-absorbent gels in disposables make it so the child does not "feel" wet as easily. They have a tougher time associating the discomfort of being wet with having to pee, and so it takes longer for them to learn to use the potty. Makes sense - but I'll have to let you know how this goes for us down the line.

Conclusions:
We love using cloth so far, and have found the slight inconveniences to be totally worth it. I like never having to spend more money on diapers, and it makes me feel good not to be adding to our weekly trash with disposables.

I hate how disposable diapers have come to be thought of by most people as "real diapers" with cloth being the exception. Cloth diapers just "work better." Let me draw an analogy with dinner plates. Would you rather eat off a nice sturdy real plate (one made from ceramic or porcelain, or whathaveyou), or a crappy paper plate that bends and leaks under the weight of your food? Sure, paper plates are convenient if you're at a picnic or on-the-go somewhere, but they’re not for everyday use. You may have to put a little work into real plates, since they need to be washed when you're done using them, but it's really not a big deal. Better than using an inferior product that you have to keep going to the store to buy. That's how I think of diapers.

Today, 95% of diapering households use disposables. Why is this? I could go into a tirade about our convenience-seeking disposable-minded culture, but I won’t. What it comes down to is that most people are overwhelmed by the prospect of cloth diapers. Either they get scared off by the high start-up costs (“$20 for ONE diaper?! No way!"), they imagine that using them is very inconvenient or difficult, or they are frightened by the prospect of all that laundry. Yes, cloth diapering does take some commitment. There is more work and effort involved, in ways. But I think it’s worth it. In my next post, I’ll explain some of the “hows” of cloth diapers: what types exist, how to use them, how laundry works, etc.

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Illness

Sly's been a bit sick the past two days. On Saturday when we got home from church, I noticed that he was very warm. So I broke out the thermometer. You know...the special baby one.....the kind that goes in their bums. I've been dreading having to do this. I thought it would be gross and painful, and that he would scream the whole time. Or that he would have to, um, go to the bathroom while I was very much in range. But I have to say, it really was not too bad. I took his temperature it in the middle of changing his diaper, and I don't think he even realized there was a thermometer in there! He ended up having a slight fever, so I gave him some baby Tylenol, and rocked him into a nap.

Saturday night, his fever seemed to be lessening, but he was developing a very stuffy nose and a bad cough. I'm used to hearing his "I'm irritated and about to start crying" cough, which warns us that we'd better pick him up now, or else. So it was so strange to hear him coughing for real the other night. He had a different voice. He didn't sound like my baby at all. It was more like an odd dog bark.

We used the nose-sucker bulb on him, which is always satisfyingly effective, but a much-hated experience for him. I never knew these things existed until I had a baby, but it's such a cleverly simple invention. I mean, Sly has no idea how to blow his nose into a tissue. So the only way to relieve him of some of his snot-abundance is to suck it out of there!
The snot-sucker


Saturday night, I experienced what all moms have warned me about - the sleeplessness of a sick baby. Let me preface this by explaining that Tom and I have been very fortunate in getting a baby who sleeps AWESOMELY through the night. True, his first week home was terrible - his days and nights were "switched" as with most babies. But we also had my mother-in-law staying with us, to share some "shifts" during the night, and help us calm him down. After that first week of life, though, he started learning to sleep through the night. Four-hour stretches at first, then five, and so on. By one month old, he was sleeping for nine straight hours, waking up just to nurse, and then back to sleep for another hour or two! We have been massively spoiled.

So Saturday night was quite an unpleasant shift. My poor little man woke up at least every half hour. All night long. He'd cough and sniffle himself awake repeatedly. It seemed as if he was actually being scared awake, from the violent and sudden reaction each time. And Tom, who never even stirred once, was completely unhelpful. After Sly woke up the second time in twenty minutes, I realized it was going to be a long night. I took him out of his own bedroom where we'd set up a nice humidifier for him, and just brought him into bed with me. Throughout the night, he continued to wake up from his coughing. We soon developed a pattern: He'd wake us up with a deep cough, sounding like a little changeling baby instead of my Sly; I'd grab the saline drops and snot-sucker to quickly perform a nose-clearing job that made him scream even louder (and yet Tom still wouldn't budge from his sleep); then I'd nestle him into the crook of my arm, and rock and shush him back to sleep by my side.

We made it through, though, and I think the worst is past. He still has his cold, but last night went much more smoothly. Today he has his four-month doctor's visit, so we'll see what he says.