Monday, December 28, 2009

"Holiday Traditions" or "The Obligatory Christmas Pictures Post"

I haven't blogged much about our holidays. Much of this is because everyone in our household was fighting a nasty cold the two weeks before Christmas. Sadly, I think Jonah got it the worst. This put a huge kink in our plans for holiday and winter activities, as I have a strict rule that if the kid (or anyone else) has the sniffles, we do not go out and spread our germs!

We did manage to recover in time for a few fun activities though! Right before the cold hit, we took Jonah and Paddington to see Santa at Petco. The picture was $10, and that money went to a local animal shelter that my sister in law volunteers at. Toledo is notorious for the rate that they euthenize strays, so I feel that it is important to support shelters in the area that have a "no-kill" policy. Plus, it's fun to have a Santa picture that includes our beloved doggie!
On Christmas Eve, it is a tradition in Daryl's family to go to dinner at the Toledo Club. The dinner is pretty formal, and so every family stops to get a picture taken in front of the main Christmas tree while they are wearing their dressy clothes.When we got home, we took some portraits of Jonah in front of the tree, and read "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" before bedtime. Jonah got to open up his special "Christmas Eve" pajamas, and we took a couple pictures, but he didn't actually get to sleep in them because we've been having bed-wetting issues. We changed him back into them when he woke up in the AM, needing a fresh pair of jammies on. We are still trying to figure out why we are having this backslide in pottying. He was waking up completely dry.
I am going to save Christmas Morning for another blog post, because I have a bit more than a paragraph to say about it. So I will just skip ahead to the day after Christmas. We went to the Toledo Zoo for their "Lights Before Christmas" display. Nevermind that we went "after" christmas, I never really liked the name of the lights display, but it really is a fun thing to go and see. Jonah absolutely loves it. We happened to pick the warmest night of the week. All of the snow had melted that day, and we were able to enjoy being outside rather than freezing. Later that night, the temperatures dropped and it began snowing again, so we were really lucky that we had gone during that window of warmth!

The next day, all of our guests were put back onto their respective planes to the places they call home. It was a very busy holiday season, made even more stressful by the whole family falling ill. But it was also a lot of fun, and a good excuse to take a break from "real life" to enjoy our family and those who are closest to us. It is not over yet, though! We are having Christmas with my family this Friday (New Year's day!)

Becoming a "Big Boy"

Jonah is definitely moving out of his baby stage and into the toddler stage. I realized this more than ever last week, as I cleaned out his toy area in anticipation of our holiday guests. While I've been pretty good about switching out his clothes and diapers as he outgrows them, I have never packed away any of his toys. Still in his toy bin were rattles, and colorful "manipulative" toys. Things he hasn't played with for probably about a year or so. The day after Christmas came the big day for organizing. All of his rattles were replaced with puzzles, and his security blankets have been replaced by a basket full of board books. The more I look at his play area, the more I see toddler playthings rather than baby items. His bouncy seat was put into storage, as was the bumbo, and a series of stuffed animals that he won't even look at anymore.The rainforest toy that hung on the side of his crib, that he loved to look at before naps, is now the Twilight Seaturtle that projects constellations and pictures of animals around his room. My baby is becoming a big boy.

It's not just the toys that are changing. We are also going through a series of transitions to "big boy" stuff right now. From the high chair to his "big boy" chair (the booster) and from his pack n play (which he's been sleeping in ever since the crib was recalled) to the "big boy" bed. He is even getting a "big boy" potty seat to use in the upstairs bathroom, and eventually one for the downstairs bathroom to replace his tiny potty chair.

The transition to the big boy chair at meal times has been relatively smooth. It actually started by accident, during Thanksgiving. My family has a huge dinner party on Thanksgiving, with a lot of family and friends. This year, there were four tables packed tight, and no room for a high chair. We had brought along our fisherprice rainforest booster seat, which has a tray on it like a high chair but straps to a regular chair. It seemed so impractical to try to fit the seat in as a high chair, with the tray on it, so we just took the tray off and pulled it up to the table. Jonah handled it like a pro. And I noticed that several of the behavioral problems that we were dealing with at mealtimes, had disappeared. Jonah was not rocking his chair, trying to feed the dogs, or throwing his food and cup as much. I wasn't sure if it was just that situation, or if Jonah really did behave better in the booster seat.

Last week, we went to lunch at the Olive Garden with our holiday guests. My sister in law arrived to the restaraunt first, and ordered a booster rather than a high chair. Once again, Jonah ate like a pro. Every morsel went into his mouth. He even used the spoon! There was no screaming, banging, or rocking. Just a perfect little gentleman, eating his mac n cheese with tomato.

At home, I'm beginning to use the booster for breakfast, lunch, and snack. Because we eat dinner upstairs with the rest of the family, we have to follow my mother in law's wishes that he stay in a high chair for dinner. We are trying to convince her that the booster is the better choice. It is definitely much less stressful for me, when I know that Jonah is sitting happily, eating, rather than when he is rocking the chair hard enough to make the legs come up from the floor, or throwing his food to the dogs, or knocking everything down by throwing his cup.

I am not sure why Jonah behaves so much better in his booster seat. My guess is because he is closer to us, at the table actually eating with us rather than to the side of us. I'm hoping that if I get a big plastic place mat to put in Jonah's place, my mother in law will warm up to the idea of putting the high chair into the basement, and using the booster from now on. For now, we have it set up downstairs for a few select meals of the day. Which is fine for the time being, since it is still the transition period for the seat!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Boy and his Gorilla

Since birth, Jonah has gone through a number of different comfort items. You could call them lovies, snoodles, binkies, security blankets, or babies. Every child has some strange item that he or she has attached themselves to. At the preschool I taught at, there was a toddler who was attached to the very edge of his old recieving blanket. The blanket had frayed and worn away, until just one little patch of the silk lining was left, and Little D carried that patch around, rubbing it against his cheek. He called it his "mimi." And if he decided at any moment that he needed his "mimi" you'd better have it, or watch out!!!

For Jonah, his first "lovie" was my boob. No joke. He would sit in his sling, half nursing/half cuddling, 24 hours a day. I got to be quite good at hiding the fact that my nursing shirt was open in order to pacify my infant. With the ring sling, it was actually very easy.

Then, Jonah moved away from needing my breast all the time, to needing Seymour, the Musical Seahorse. Seymour was bought as a gift, from my best friend Elizabeth. Jonah would not nap without Seymour, would not play on the floor without Seymour, and absolutely would NOT ride in the car without Seymour!Seymour's batteries do not last forever, though. And we all know how some toys will get set aside to get new batteries "when we get around to it." The main problem is that Seymour doesn't take normal AA batteries. Oh no, he takes watch batteries. So, Seymour's music has been silent for quite a few months. Without the glowing belly and soothing music, Jonah quickly lost interest in Seymour.

Then, in the early spring, we went to the zoo with my mom. Jonah absolutely loves the gorillas at the zoo. He has ever since our first visit. He will sit and watch them swing and play for hours. I'm convinced that the large male gorilla at the Toledo Zoo recognizes Jonah when we visit now, because we spend so much time watching the gorillas. Sometimes, the male will come to the window to study Jonah. One time, a teenage girl pushed me while I was holding Jonah, so that she could get a picture of this gorilla, and he was so upset by her that he charged at the glass where she was standing. I'm convinced he was trying to protect Jonah, but that might just be me being sentimental.

At any rate, my mom thought I was crazy when I told her how much Jonah loves the gorillas. He wasn't even a year old yet, so I can understand this. When we went to the zoo, she saw how much he just loved them. So she insisted on buying him this plush silverback gorilla from the souvenier shop.

At the time, the gorilla was not much smaller than Jonah. We brought the gorilla home, and I expected to simply put him on the shelf in Jonah's bedroom. Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Within a couple of days, the gorilla had gotten quite a bit of playtime in. It became apparant that he needed a name. We picked Hank. Hank the Gorilla. Soon, Hank became the very first toy that Jonah would pull out every day.

Then, while I was shopping one day, I found a stuffed gorilla for $5, and the profits went to a charity that was helping children learn to read. I bought it, noting that it must be a female gorilla. I brought her home and introduced her to Hank. The chemistry was instant. Hank had a mate. We named her Gloria the Gorilla. While Jonah will accept Gloria as a substitute for Hank, he will sleep with her and be happy to have her along on walks and outings, Hank is still his favorite.

Now, Jonah is never anywhere without either Hank or Gloria. If we are playing with other children, and a curious tot comes and looks at Hank, Jonah gets very posessive. I've never seen him get posessive of any other toy or object. If anyone dares to pick Hank up, be prepared for some screaming!

What strikes me the most is how much affection Jonah gives to Hank. He hugs him, and gives him endless kisses, buries his face into his fur, and the newest form of affection for Hank is biting. Jonah will bite his nose and his hands while giving him a huge hug. I'm a little worried that this will translate into biting other people or our dog, but so far Jonah seems to know the difference.

Of all of Jonah's lovies, he is definitely the most attached to Hank. Hank and Gloria are now an integral part of our family, and we have managed to work them into all of our daily routines. I don't think anyone could imagine our lives without Hank anymore.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Update on All the Doctor's Visits

This past week, Jonah went to see the doctor for the fourth time in a month. The last time that I posted about a doctor's visit, it was because Jonah had broken out in hives, thought to be caused by an ear infection. After we treated the ear infection, the hives persisted. They had begun to appear on his face. And so, we went back to the doctor a week later, and then we bumped his fifteen month check up to a week earlier as well. The doctor prescribed Zertec, because Benadryl did not seem to do anything for the hives at all. She told us that she hated to subject Jonah to yet even more needles and tests, but if the hives did not go away within two weeks she would refer us to an allergist to have tests done. In the meantime, we were to cut out dairy completely.

We cut out dairy from Jonah's diet, which was difficult since sometimes the only things he will eat are cheese or yogurt! But even with a strict dairy free diet and the new allergy medicine, the hives kept spreading. I was at my wit's end. He had been having these hives pretty much since Halloween. Finally, Daryl's mom had a revelation. She had just had the carpets cleaned Halloween weekend. I thought she had them steam cleaned, so I was happy to give her permission to get the carpets in Jonah's bedroom and play area cleaned. We have a lot of pets in our home, so I really welcomed having the dirt and dander removed. However, it came to the surface that the carpets were not steam cleaned, but a cleaning solution was used on them.

We put rugs down where we could, and kept Jonah off the carpets. Miraculously, the hives went away. It was the cleaning solution that was causing the hives. This is one reason that I prefer natural cleaning methods such as steaming or using naturally made cleaning products. I just recently bought a book that has several natural cleaning remedies, including herbal and natural carpet cleaning solutions:
I've already used some of the all-purpose cleaner "recipes" and have been very happy. I think the next time that we decide the carpets need a cleaning, we will try one of the solutions from this book as well.

So this past week, we had the follow up appointment with the doctor. Sadly, the hives were not the only item that we were following up on. At the 15 month appointment, we discussed Jonah's cognitive development. I've been concerned about his development for quite a while now, but that little voice that says every child develops differently kept pushing me to wait and see how he does. While I agree very strongly that every child is different, I also believe in mommy instincts. If Mommy feels that there is something going on with her child, most often she is right in my opinion. When I felt that Jonah was too small and too skinny, everyone told me that all babies grow differently, and he is just the right size for Jonah. It turned out, he was *not* just the right size for Jonah, and there was indeed something very very wrong. Had our current pediatrician not listened to my mommy instinct, I get chills at thinking about what might have happened to our beloved little boy.

And so I've had kind of the same feeling about his development, really since about June. It's not even that he's meeting milestones later than most children in his age (he's coming pretty close to the 1%ile in both speech as well as gross motor skills)but it seems to take him a lot longer to get from one step to another. For example, going back through my facebook notes, I realized that I had posted in September that he was letting go of objects and standing on his own for a few seconds. I exclaimed in these posts "We'll be walking by Halloween!" It is just my experience and observations that when a child begins to stand on his own, it is only a matter of weeks before the first steps are taken. Jonah did not take his first steps until mid-november. Again from my experience and observations, it usually only takes a child a week or so to go from taking a few unsure steps, to walking in order to get to places or objects across the room. Jonah is still only taking two or three steps at a time. He has ben taking two or three steps for about a month now. I know he will walk eventually, I am not worried about that. I am worried that it seems to be taking him much longer than other children to "get" things.

He is also gradually moving from "slightly delayed" to "moderately delayed" in speech. At sixteen months, though he knows and uses fifteen ASL signs, he relies on only a handful of phonemes. Dadada, Mamama, and jeejeejee. He doesn't use these phonemes to refer to anything, he only babbles them. I have never heard him use the ba or ga or ka or la phonemes, all of which he should have mastered by now. I notice this the most, of course, because of my intense studies and interest in speech development and acquisition. He very obviously understands language, because he uses sign language to refer to objects, actions, and people. There is just something about producing the words that he isn't picking up on.

Other things that Jonah cannot do that are of concern to me and the doctor are: stacking three blocks (he lines them up in perfect rows, but will not stack them) scribbling with crayons when shown, looking at me or Daryl if someone says "where is Mommy?" or "Where's Daddy?" pointing to body parts, looking for an object after it rolls behind a screen (most babies will look to the other side of the screen to see the object roll out, by nine months) and grasping items such as a spoon. These are just small flags though, the walking and talking is what really has us concerned.

Also, although I am well aware of the ultimate mommy-rule "do not compare thy baby to thy neighbor's baby," I can't help but notice that when we go to music class or play group, that Jonah is just... well, different. Seeing him alongside of these other children his age, or even his cousin who is three months younger than him, I can really see that he cannot do what they are doing. The differences are enough to make me cry some weeks at our music class.

These are not things that Jonah has not been exposed to. I have worked with him for a long time on all of them, knowing that they are important developmental milestones. I am afraid that last winter, when he stopped growing, his development was slowed. The doctor referred us to a specialist who will come to our home to do a full assessment. While part of me feels that she will not be able to tell me something I don't know, I also am glad to have someone who is coming at this with fresh eyes. Depending on what she says, we may have to go to occupational therapy with Jonah. Perhaps I am over-reacting, but if there is a problem with his cognition, it is much easier to get him back on track than it will be later in life. Perhaps it will all play out on its own, but if he needs help now then we will do what he needs.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Quick and Easy Pasta Meal for Picky Eaters

Jonah is a pretty picky eater, so I try to fit extra nutrients in wherever I can! Something that has helped me boost the health of his meals tremendously is substituting items typically made from wheat and other grains, with items made from quinoa. Quinoa is actually more of a leafy green than a grain, botanically speaking. But if it is prepared correctly, it takes on the same cooking properties as other grains. For those on a gluten-free diet, quinoa is a large dietary subsitute for grains. It provides calcium, protein, iron, vitamin E as well as B vitamins. When I was a vegetarian, quinoa quickly became a staple in my diet. Now, it is easier to find not only quinoa, but items such as pasta that are made with quinoa. I didn't have it so nice fifteen years ago as a vegetarian!

So when my young toddler began dismissing meats and other important foods, I turned to my old staple to sneak in some vital nutrients. This meal is not only healthy for Jonah, but it's fast and easy (something else essential in meal-planning for toddlers!) and I found all the ingredients at my local Giant Eagle.

Butter and Herb Pasta with Carrot Coins:
1/4 cup Quinoa Pasta (I found it in the organic section of my supermarket, with the other organic pastas)
a few cherry tomatoes quartered (use your judgement on how many tomatoes your little one will eat)
1/4 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp butter
Oregano to taste
garlic powder to taste
basil to taste
(if you want SUPER quick and easy, use one of the Italian Herb mixes, or Pasta Sauce spice mixes)
1 carrot, washed peeled and sliced into bite size peices

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the pasta and boil for about seven minutes, or until tender. Note that Quinoa pasta is a bit more dense then pasta made from flour, so the consistency may seem different to you when it is done.

While the pasta is cooking, place the carrot slices into a microwavable bowl and cover with water. Heat on high in the microwave for about five minutes, or until soft.

When pasta is done,turn the heat off on the stove. Drain the water and place the pasta back into the pot. DO NOT RINSE THE PASTA. Add the olive oil, butter, tomatoes, and herbs while stirring. The heat of the pasta will continue to cook the tomatoes and melt the butter.

Serve the carrots along side the pasta

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree!

Typically when Jonah does an art project, it is open-ended, or at least semi open-ended. Open-ended art basically means that the child creates a piece of art based on their own choices. Instead of saying "we're going to make an elephant, here's how to do it" you simply offer the child the art supplies and allow them to create on their own. Semi-open ended means that you give the child a framework in which to create, but still allow them to have control over their choices. So in a semi-open ended project, you would say "we are going to make an elephant. You choose what the elephant will look like, what color he is, and what the elephant is doing in the picture." Very seldom do I do what is called a closed-ended art project. This would be telling the child "we are going to make an elephant with grey paint; follow my instructions."

All three are important for a child's development, especially at different age ranges. I'm not going to get into the benefits of each kind of art project, or the importance of offering all three to your child. If you are interested, it is a pretty easy topic to search on the internet. I will say that I don't feel that a child at Jonah's age or development benefits greatly from closed-ended art projects. So we rarely do them.

But they are fun. Especially around the holidays, when there are so many great projects to be done (and these projects also make great gifts for family members, or decorations around the house!) So today I did decide to do a closed-ended art project with Jonah. We made a christmas tree!

This is a very simple project. I tried to get pictures of the process, but having only two hands, I found it more difficult than I had thought. I did take pictures of the tree after each step though, so hopefully it is easy enough to follow along:
1. Put some non-toxic washable green paint into a pie pan or plate (you could use a paper plate, but pie pans are reusable) Place your child's hand into the paint and make sure the paint covers their hand print completely.

2. Start from the bottom of the tree and work your way up the tree. I found it easiest to place the paper sideways in front of Jonah, so that he didn't have to twist his hand in an awkward position to get the print to be upside down. Place two of your child's hand prints kind of spaced apart for the bottom layer of the tree. If your child has small hands, you could do three hand prints. For the next teir of branches, place two handprints close together. Then on top of that, place one handprint, and then one more on top of that. There are four rows of handprints altogether on Jonah's tree.

4. In the pie pan, seperately from the green paint, place a dab of yellow paint. Allow your child to squish his index finger into the yellow paint, and paint on the top of the tree for the star.

5. Wash your child's hands and give him a snack while you wait for the paint to dry on the picture.

6. Offer your child bingo markers, or "dot" markers* and demonstrate how to push the marker up and down to make a dot. Encourage your child to copy the movements, making christmas ornaments on his tree.

(*bingo markers can be found in most stores, near the playing cards and poker chips. They are about a dollar. You can also buy "dot markers" that are made especially for children's art projects. These are usually found near the children's arts and crafts supplies. While they are more expensive, they do offer a larger variety of colors, they are washable, and some brands are refillable. I prefer the cheaper Bingo Markers)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Toddler Bed!

A few weeks ago, I was very angered to learn that Jonah's crib was one of the 2 million cribs recalled in the US and Canada. Storkcraft, who manufactures cribs under the names of Storkcraft as well as Fisherprice, was recalling all of the models that have a dropside rail.

This is the second time, within a matter of months, that Jonah's crib has been recalled. The first recall was because the metal parts that hold the mattress board to the frame were bending and eventually would break. We sent away for the new parts that would fix the problem. It wasn't a big deal, just replace the faulty parts (which were relatively easy to switch out.)

This time, I am furious. Honestly, the majority of my anger is directed at myself as a mother. I have felt for some time now that this crib is not safe. Jonah fell out of the crib a few weeks ago when he was jumping, and the dropside rail lowered on one side. My husband lowered the crib mattress to the lower setting (which we thought that it was already on, but there was one more notch lower than where it was at) and tightened the screws holding the frame together. This seemed to fix the problem.

We've had problems in the past with the rail coming off of it's track, when we were tightening screws or moving the board, or sometimes when I was changing sheets. I never thought of this happening when Jonah was in the crib though, because it seemed to only happen when we were doing something to the crib like moving it around etc.

This current recall is because of this problem. The rail seperates from it's lower track while the baby/toddler is in the bed, creating a gap between the crib and the rail. The baby slips down inside this gap, and the rail snaps back trapping the infant, and in some cases suffocating or strangling the child.

Here is a news article with pictures that gives more information about the recall. It includes pictures (using dolls for demonstration) showing how the rail can entrap a child.
Please, if you do have one of these cribs stop using it immediately and contact Storkcraft. The company is offering a kit to make the drop down rail stationary, eliminating the problem of the rail coming off of the track.

We chose a different route. Because this is the SECOND time that the crib has been recalled in months, I was very upset to say the least. I was ready to dismantle the crib and toss it. Both pieces of furniture that I have bought from this company have been a total disappointment. Our changer/dresser combo is also a storkcraft product. The drawers have been falling apart since before Jonah was born (I know it was properly put together) so it is now being held together by gorilla glue. Just the drawers, not the frame. If we had issues with the frame, it would most definitely be not in use anymore as that would be a safety hazard.

Daryl decided that it would be more frugal to convert the crib into the toddler bed. I see his point- if we toss the crib, we will not only need to buy a crib for the baby on the way, but also a toddler bed for Jonah. The recalls were only for the bed being used as a crib, and really don't apply to the parts of the toddler bed since none of those parts are used. We converted the bed to a toddler bed last night. I inspected it thoroughly and am actually pretty pleased with how sturdy the bed is. The dangerous parts have been removed which makes me feel a million times better.

Jonah will not be using the toddler bed any time soon, however. He just isn't ready. Since we learned of the recall, he has been sleeping in his pack n play. I am glad that we have at least transitioned the bed to the toddler bed, because now we can introduce it to Jonah very gradually. Because he is so attached to his sleep routine, I know that this transition needs to be made very gently. For now, I am just letting him get used to it being in his room. Allowing him to sit on it for story time, and placing familiar bedtime objects in it. We'll see how long it takes us to get to the next step of transition, but I'm in no hurry. Jonah can take his time getting used to it!

Here is a picture of Jonah and our dog Paddington sitting in the "new" bed! It's the best that I could get, because Jonah was very eager to explore his new bed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

EC Away from Home

Tis the season for traveling and visiting family! When Daryl and I packed up the van to visit my family over thanksgiving weekend, there was a long debate about whether or not to take Jonah's potty. On one hand, we are trying to travel lighter, which isn't easy to do with a young toddler. We both find it hard to cope with the fact that our minivan becomes completely full when we are leaving for just a small weekend trip. The potty is just one more thing to add to all the other space-eating "equipment." Especially when he hardly ever uses the potty when we are away from home. He just seems too distracted, as are we, for elimination communication (EC) to work properly.

On the other hand, Jonah has been doing a really good job of telling us when he needs to use the potty at home. Also, he is getting bigger and so is the baby in my belly. It is becoming increasingly difficult and cumbersome to hold him over the toilet when we are away from home. His little tush is still way too tiny to actually sit on the toilet. Even with me helping him, he usually ends up with either a foot, or his bum, in the toilet. So even though we haven't been too successful with EC on the road, we decided that it is about time to start making more of an effort to use it when we are away.

We went to Thanksgiving dinner, and tried without success to use the potty. Every time that I would think he might have to go, I would take him to the potty and he wouldn't go. While he does sign "potty" when he has to poop, he has not quite gotten down when to tell us that he needs to urinate. I still rely heavily on his body signals to know when to take him to urinate. We would get him on his potty, and I could see him flexing his tummy muscles as if he were trying to go, but nothing would come out. But at least we were trying!

When we got to our hotel that night after dinner, I realized that we had left all of the diapers at my mom's house. Luckily, I always keep a spare disposable diaper in the car, just in case we are caught without one. Our plan was to use this diaper for the night (it was late, so Jonah was going straight to bed!) and I would bring the diapers back later that night. I was going shopping with my mom and sister, so as soon as Jonah was in bed, I would be heading back to my family's house. No big deal.

It would have worked perfectly, except I forgot to bring the diapers back! So, at 8:00 in the morning, I stripped Jonah down bare naked in the hotel room, and Daryl went out to get the diapers. I just prayed that if he had to go potty, he would let me know. Sure enough, he was on his game that morning. He gave me the signs for both urinating and pooping. While Daryl was gone, he went on the potty three times! For whatever reasons, after that morning a little switch was flipped, and he used the potty for the majority of the trip.

I am beginning to think that just as I once had to do for using EC at home, I just have to make the decision and say "we will NOT be using diapers on this trip" and if I make that choice, then we can make it work. I think that when we make the choice of taking diapers out of the picture completely, it forces us as parents to be more aware of what Jonah is telling us and what his needs are when it comes to pottying. We no longer have the safety net, so we have to leave very little room for error.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Questions to ask the Midwife

Going to see a midwife was very intimidating for me. Not because the midwife herself is intimidating- really, all three of the midwives that I have interviewed have been very warm and sweet. It was the process that is intimidating. Everyone knows how an OB works. You call the office, tell them you are pregnant, and they set up an appointment. You show up for the appointment and hand them your insurance card and pay a co-pay. When the baby is delivered, you go to the hospital and have the baby, and fill out a form, and they take care of the birth certificate. With Jonah's hospital birth, the hospital even took care of sending a birth announcement to the local newspaper for us.

With homebirths, it is a little different. There is a lot that was a mystery to me. The whole process from interviewing to making the insurance claims has been a learning experience. When I went in for the first interview, I did not even know what to ask. Since then, several questions have come up that I wish I had known to ask upon that first meeting. So I have compiled these questions that have come up, for anyone else who is thinking of having a midwife attend their birth. I've also included the reasons that I wish I would have asked these questions during the initial interview.
1. What is your reason for becoming a midwife? This is just kind of a "feeler" question. It gives you insight into the midwife's birthing philosophies as well as lets you know her past experiences.
2. What are your views on prenatal scanning such as ultrasounds and gestastional diabetes testing? You want to make sure that you are on the same page as far as screenings go. If you want minimal screening, you don't want to have a midwife that is going to pressure you into the procedures. On the other end, if you would like to have these screenings, you don't want to feel that your midwife is judging you for doing what you feel is the best for your health and the baby's health.
3. How will my insurance be billed, and what happens if they don't cover the costs of a midwife assisted birth? Some midwifes have a sliding scale that can be adjusted to your income if insurance won't cover the bills. It may seem taboo, but it is important to talk about money up front and find out what the payment options are. Be prepared to battle with the insurance company yourself, and if the midwife requires you to file your own claims ask for any paper work and phone numbers that you will need.
4.What do you expect of me during pregnancy and labor? and what duties will I have to fulfill regarding the pregnancy and birth? My current midwife expects mothers that she is attending to exercise regularly, keep track of her diet, and attend birthing classes. She also encourages attending classes and events at her birthing center. This is different from a typical OB, who would probably answer this question by saying "be on time for appointments" (at least my past OB would) It is also important to know what paperwork you will be responsible for. Some midwives require you to file for the birth certificate and social security yourself. These are things that were handled for me in my hospital birth, but need extra attention for this homebirth.
5. What do you expect of my partner during pregnancy and labor? Remember that there are two of you that the midwife will have to work with. If your partner is kind of hands off and skittish, and your midwife is expecting him to be more active than he wishes to be, then you may have a problem. Be up front about your partner's desired level of participation.
6. In the event of a hospital transfer, what hospital will I be taken to? Through casual conversation with my husband last night, I realized that our insurance only covers Toledo City Hospital. If we are transported to an out of system hospital, we may have to pay quite a bit of money or even be refused care. Make sure that the hospital that you will be transported to is covered by your insurance.
7. In the event of a hospital transfer, can I see the physician of my choice? Many women have a "back up" OBGYN in case they need to be transferred to a hospital during the pregnancy or labor. They visit this OB regularly throughout the pregnancy so that the OB is familiar with the mother and the circumstances. Others feel that the on-call OB is just fine. It is important to know how your midwife feels about a backup OB, and if she will transfer you to that OB or one of her consultants.
8. How do you feel about other children being present during labor or birth? What about other family members? If you have other children, it is important to know how the midwife feels about them being present. My midwife allows them, but requires one person to be there who is designated to watch the children. If you are birthing in a birth center, it is important to know if there is a room that your child can play in or take a nap, or eat if necessary. Also, if you want furthur support during your labor, it is important to know how the midwife will handle having extra people such as your mother or sister. This question will also force you to really think about whether or not you want these people present at the most intimate moment of your family's life. Having my mother there seemed like a sentimental thought, but when I really dwelled on it I am not sure if I could handle having her there, as much as I love my mother.
9. What would you consider grounds to transfer me to a hospital? You want to make sure that the midwife will be able to recognize an actual emergency that requires a hospital transfer, and make sure that her opinions are in line with what you believe to be something that warrents going to the hospital. If they are not, ask her why she would not transfer to a hospital for such things.
10. What are my labor and delivery options with you? You'll want to know if you can labor in a tub, or if your partner can assist in catching the baby. Your midwife may be able to tell you of options you've not heard of before. Can you eat during labor? How will she monitor the baby? In general, ask her what your options are for how your labor can be managed.

This is not a complete list. There are other very important questions that you should ask your midwife before choosing her to assist in your birth. But if you google "questions for midwife" every list will have those same questions. These questions above are questions that I have encountered while doing paper work, setting up appointments, and planning my birth. I did not have these questions on my list the first time I met my midwife, because I was not prepared for any of them to come up. No matter what questions you choose to ask during the interview, it is important to make sure that the midwife you select will be compassionate towards the views of you and your partner, and that she is properly trained and prepared to safely deliver your new miracle into the world.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Food Co-ops

When I was in high school, I would visit a shop with my friends called Kent Natural Foods. They had interesting drinks in their cooler- kiwi flavored sodas, and rootbeer made with natural ingredients. We would head to the shop on warm saturday afternoons to look at the bins full of grains and granola and dried fruits, buy our drinks, and then head to the river to waste the day in ways that only teenagers can do.

Years before this, when I was in elementary school, my parents had told me that this was a special store. It was a co-op, and that meant that you had to join a membership to get lower prices, and you had to take turns working there. As I got older, my friends and I enjoyed taking in the smells and seeing the unique organic foods they had there. This was before Giant Eagle carried organic brands, and stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes were non-existent. I made friends with a lot of the families who were co-owners, and I really grew to like the idea of a cooperative business. Whenever I'd ask my parents why we weren't members, they'd always tell me "because it's for hippies!"

Well now I am an adult, and I can say with quite a bit of pride that I AM a hippie. And the idea of a cooperative business still appeals to me. There are a lot of different co-op designs, but the one that appeals to me the most is this:
Everyone buys a share of the store for a pre-determined fee. That fee covers the working cost of the store (rent, bills, etc) The owners take turns volunteering work hours to the store, and in return can trade these work hours for a percentage off of their groceries, or for a share in the company. In addition, the company buys locally produced and manufactured goods whenever possible, and only carries "real" food, or food with no preservatives or chemicals.

This is the way that Kent Natural Foods works. This is how I grew up knowing co-ops. This cooperative business initiative really appeals to me, because I think it's important to work within the community to provide the best nutritious food possible for my family. Everyone has a vested interest in the company, because they are all share owners, and so they really care about the ethics of the business and the kinds of foods that are promoted. Theoretically, costs to the members should also be less because the co-op does not need to pay employees to run the store.

I suppose that part of me has always wanted to live on a sustainable commune, and a food co-op such as this is one way to get a step closer while still keeping both feet planted in "the real world." Now that we are setting up roots here in the Toledo area, I thought I'd look into joining a food co-op so that I could get locally grown foods at a lesser cost to my family. I am highly dissappointed in what I have found so far.

There is one co-op that runs the same way that I described above. However, the owners share is not $45, but is $200. Quite a difference. There is no option to trade work hours for the share, but it is possible to volunteer four hours a month to get an extra 5% off of bulk food purchases. Without the four hours a month, an owner gets 5% off of regular food purchases and 10% off of bulk. If we bought a share, we would have to spend $4,000 on groceries to get our $200 return. Since we barely spend $3600 a year on groceries as it is, this is hardly appealing. The co-op is open to the community, which means that the general public, not just co-owners, can shop in the store. This is good, because we can test drive it for a little while before deciding. But as it stands, the only thing that is appealing to me about it is that it supports small local farms and local businesses. I am not seeing, up front, the benefits that I said appeal to me earlier.

There are other co-ops, where you buy a small share of a farm, and get a percentage of each month's harvest. I have a friend who belongs to a co op where she pays a yearly fee and each month she gets a sack full of local organic produce. The problem with these kinds of co-ops, is that you don't know what you will be getting until it is delivered to you. One week you may get a pound of carrots and a few pounds of potatoes, and the next week maybe no carrots and three pounds of celery. Also, in Ohio this means that these kinds of co-ops only work summer-fall. There is a co-op run by nuns in the Tiffin area that works like this, and they have a delivery point in our town. So this is definitely an option for us once spring arrives.

If any readers have any suggestions or tips about food co-ops, please leave a comment! I am really just beginning to delve into all of the details of such businesses.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Mommy's Pregnant Carrot Soup"

The day after I told Daryl that we are expecting our second child, he said to me (in the most loving way possible) "If you're pregnant, does that mean you'll be making carrot soup again?"When I was pregnant with Jonah, I bought a cookbook named The Well Rounded Pregnancy Cookbook by Karen Gurwitz. Some days, the only thing that I could stomach was soup, and so I really lived out of the "soups" section of this book. On days when I felt energetic, I would cook huge quantities of soup and freeze it in individual serving sizes. This way, the next time I felt sick or tired, I could just heat up some delicious soup. One soup in particular became our favorite very quickly: "Carrot Soup with Corriander, Curry, Ginger, and Chives." I shortened the name to Carrot Ginger soup, but it could also be called "Mommy is Pregnant! Carrot Soup" because I do seem to make and eat an awful lot of it while pregnant!The reason for this is: Ginger. The ginger in this recipe is often what I need to stop the nausea. When I am pregnant, I consume ginger in large amounts from ginger tea to ginger capsules to ginger cookies and ginger ale (canada dry has real ginger in it, and there are several local companies that brew and bottle true ginger ale!) Because ginger is such a key ingredient in this soup, I would like to talk about it for just a moment before giving you the much asked for recipe.

You can buy ginger in several forms. Each one tastes completely different and in general cannot be substituted for eachother. You can buy fresh ginger root (pictured above) in the produce section of your market. It usually hangs out by the garlic or the potatoes. This needs to be peeled and grated before use in most recipes. If you have one of those cheese graters that is like a cube that has all the different sides to it, wrap it in plastic wrap and use the side with the small bumps to grate it- all you have to do is remove the plastic wrap from the grater and scrape off the ginger. You could also buy pre-grated ginger. It works the same in a recipe as fresh, but might not be as potent. It is in tubes that look kind of like tooth paste, and it hangs out in the refridgerated section of the produce. There is also ginger powder, which you would find in the spices aisle. This is used mostly for baking and can NOT take the place of fresh ginger. It tastes completely different, and it is not as good for curing morning sickness moans. Candied or crystalized ginger can be found at natural foods stores and some bulk stores, or you could make it yourself. I carry this with me in car trips as I tend to get carsick, but I also usually have some in my purse or bag when I am pregnant to ward off any sudden nausea. It isn't really good for cooking with, but it really helps with motion sickness etc. I just chew on whole bits whenever I feel ill.

So now you know the scoop on ginger! The reason I threw that in here is because when I give this recipe to friends, they usually ask if such-and-such will do for the ginger. In short, no it will not. The way the ginger is prepared highly effects its taste and the way it interacts with the other ingredients. So here is the recipe the way that the book gives it, but I will add my own addendums in (...)

2 Tbl Olive Oil
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped (I usually use up to three potatoes to make it nice and thick)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 Tbl fresh ginger, peeled and grated (I use a LOT more than this! Add it to taste, and if you're feeling particularly sick that day add a little more than usual)
1 tsp ground corriander
1 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cups chicken stock, (vegetable stock or water if you're veg.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
1/2 cup chives (optional- I dont use them)

Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan or soup pot, over medium heat until it begins to "shimmer." Add the onion, potatoes, garlic, ginger, curry powder, and corriander while stirring. Heat until the onions are transluscent, 5-8 minutes. Add the carrots and stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

(I allow the soup to cool before putting it into my blender, because I've overheated blenders by making this soup before I learned my lesson! You can always re-heat the soup later if it gets too cold) Puree in a blender until smooth. Add the cream and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chives.

I usually will make about three times this recipe and pour it into the zip-loc storage containers. I divide some of it into single and double portions, for when it is just me eating the soup, and some of it into larger containers for family sized portions. Then I freeze it, and have a quick and easy, yet healthy, dinner when I am feeling nauseous and pregnant!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rashes, Hives, and ear infections

Just when you think you know everything about a topic, you learn something new about it. Ear infections, for example. I thought I knew pretty much all there is to know about them. I've seen an incredible amount of ear infections in infants while working at nursery school. I actually alerted the parents when their child had an ear infection, that they should go to the doctor to have their ears looked at. Ear infections are just something that I can spot a mile away.

I took Jonah to the doctor last week because he had woken up covered in hives. But I was also 90% sure that we would also find out that he had an infection in his left ear. I had been planning on calling the doctor this day anyway because of the ears, as well as the return of the nastiest diaper rash ever (that just won't leave us alone!) but the hives kind of sealed the deal. The reason I suspected an ear infection was because he was very grumpy, refused to eat, and he's teething. He's had fevers off and on, and the biggest sign was that his left ear has been utterly disgusting. It's been a real chore to clean out his left ear. Without going into great detail, it suffices to say that it was gross.

We got to the doctor and found the same news about the "diaper" rash. It's a staph infection. I'm at my wits end over this infection. It first showed up when we went on vacation and used Luvs disposable diapers. The doctor said that it's common, because babies will get a raw rash from the perfumes in the diapers, and bacteria will get into the rash from sweat etc, and a staph infection incurrs. Unfortunately, once we unknowingly put his bacterial infected behind back into his cloth diapers, the bacteria decided to hang out there. I've used everything under the sun to try to disinfect them. My last option is a cleaning chemical called BacOut.

I've heard it's just the thing for this type of heavy duty sterilizing. Jonah doesn't use diapers very much anymore, but he does when I am working and Grandma is watching him. It only takes a few minutes of contact with one contaminated diaper to get the infection again. I'm really getting frustrated with it, and just want to put my baby back in his cloth diapers again! I feel like we are throwing our money away with every pack of disposables we buy.

Now the hives are another story. I suggested, for the third time, that maybe he is allergic to dairy. For the third time, the doctor disagreed. She began to examine him, and I mentioned to her about the ear and maybe it is infected. Remember, I had just cleaned Jonah's ears. She still needed a special tool to clear them enough that she could see inside. I was disgusted! I am a clean freak about things like ears and noses and belly buttons. I can't stand any kind of body gook. And here was my baby, having mounds of earwax extracted from his ears. She finally was able to get a good look and saw that indeed it was infected.

I wasn't surprised. I was expecting this. What I wasn't expecting was for her to say "and there's the cause of the hives!" What? What's the cause again, I missed it.

The ear infection! Yes, really. This is the new thing that I learned about ear infections: hives are a symptom of an ear infection. Who knew! Apparantly when the body tries to ward off infection of any kind, hives show up because it is a side effect of the immune system going into overdrive.

So Jonah and I were big spenders at the pharmacy this week. An antibiotic ointment for the staph infection, hydrocortizone cream and benadryl for the hives, more aquafor for the eczema on his face (which she confirmed once again is in fact eczema) and amoxicillin for the ear infection. It seems like sooo many medications, but Jonah is in a much better mood now that they have begun to take effect! If the hives and other rashes are not gone by our appointment next week, then he will be tested for food allergies.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Little Monkey

This year, we had a pretty low key Halloween. I bought Jonah the above monkey costume to wear to an event at our zoo. I was pretty upset when reality of working set in, and I realized that I would not be able to take Jonah due to my work schedule. Despite having asked for that day off, I found myself working rather than masquerading with the monkeys at the zoo. This was a hard situation for me to handle, because it was the first time that I realized that I would be missing certain activities and special treats with Jonah because of work. It was when I truly figured out that my time was not free to be scheduled as it used to be. Jonah still got to go to the zoo event with his grandmother, but as she does not celebrate Halloween, she did not dress him in his costume for it. Which is fine; I am just sad that I missed it.

So today, Halloween day, we dressed Jonah in his monkey outfit for a photoshoot in our yard, and then took him to dinner wearing is costume. We've been avoiding going out to eat during flu season, but we decided to make the exception and have a little treat on Halloween. Jonah really seemed to enjoy his costume! He was very interested in the feet and the tail, and he even wore the hat (he never lets us put a hat on him!) I think he knew just how cute he is in it!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Communicating "Potty"

For a little while, it was a bit difficult to tell when Jonah had to potty. He hadn't really picked up on very many signs or verbal words yet, and he was moving so much that his usual cues got lost in all of his running around. Recently, I was relieved when I went to get Jonah up from nap, and he was standing in his crib, wiggling his fist back and forth in the air. Ah, the sign for "potty." At last! A definite cue to say "I need to go now!"

At first, Jonah used it after he had already gone. If I missed his other cues because I was upstairs doing the laundry, or I took a little longer to get him from bed, he would sign as if to say "I pooped Mom, and it's in my pants. Where were you?"

Then one day while we were visiting my mother and grandmother, he signed "potty." We were in the car, driving home from having dinner out. When we got home, I expected there to be a load in his pants, but they were only a little wet. Jonah was still signing "potty" but I thought he must just be signing it because I'm changing his diaper. I shrugged my shoulders and went out to the car to get a clean diaper. Yes, leaving him diaperless in my mother's care. When I opened the door, clean diaper in hand, I heard the most hysterical laughter. I looked at Jonah, who was still signing "potty" to my laughing mother while he was going. I cleaned the mess up, put a diaper on Jonah, and laughed myself. That is what you get when you don't listen to your child! From then on, he has signed "potty" before he poops. He still hasn't done the sign for pee yet, but he will make the "sssss" noise as he's going.

Here is the video of Jonah signing "potty" (excuse the laundry that snuck into the shot!)

Jonah Signs Potty (youtube link)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pregnancy Dreams

So it seems in pregnancy, I have two different issues at night. Either I can't sleep at all (such as tonight, which is why I am blogging at 1:30 am when I knowingly have to get up for work in a few hours) or, I sleep and have crazy restless dreams.

While I don't usually share my dreams with others, I do find that people get a kick out of my pregnancy dreams. They are like those trippy movies from the sixties that just don't make any sense. So here is my latest and greatest sub-conscious brain child.

I was going to baby sit this little girl. I don't really know her, but she kept popping up in my dream at random times as this blonde thin girl who didn't talk but just smiled at me. Okay, creepy. As I was walking up to the family's house, which I don't recognize as any real-life house, all of the sudden my dog trainer was with me. We walked up the front steps, but it was like we couldn't ever make it to the house. Then suddenly, the family's pet alligator (yup, alligator- they had two, to be exact) came and bit my arm! My dog trainer started yelling, and the alligator was trying to rip my arm off, so true to the "Survivor's Guide" I hit him on the nose and he let go. So my trainer runs off and starts to yell at the father for not having his alligator properly trained.

The father and mother didnt care that their alligator had bitten me, and gave me instructions for their daughter's dinner, and started to leave. My arm was bleeding profusely at this point. Then my mother came and started to yell at the man for making me work when I obviously needed hospital care. My dog trainer had vanished by this point and no one seemed to be bothered by it. So my mom pulled me into my minivan and proceeded to drive to the store. Not the hospital, the store. We went in to get some food, because you know that is what you need if an alligator eats your arm, and I look down at my arm and can see, what in my dream represented bone (it didnt look like how real bone would probably look... at all) So I said "uh mom, I don't think I need bread, I think I need stitches and a skin graft." So then we run out of the store and get into my mini van. I get in to drive, but can't pull out of the parking spot. Then I realize that my mom had parked the van in the cart coral, and it was stuck!!!! She said if I was too much of a whimp to pull the car out, then she woudl do it. So I got out of the car through the window (because the doors were blocked by the rails of the cart coral- nevermind how we got in.) and watch her pull my extremely crumpled minivan out of the newly formed parking space.

I woke up without ever making it to the hospital, and thinking "Man, my mom owes me a new van!!!"

True story!


A question I get asked a LOT about elimination communication (EC) is "why?"

I've been asked this question in the form of responses to my blog posts, emails, personal messages, and face to face with family members, and it is usually coupled with reasons that I shouldn't be doing this.

"Why are you taking him to the potty when you are busy? Why won't you just take care of it later" Well, here's my short and sweet smart alec answer: I have to deal with the poop at some point, so I might as well do it now before it's stuck all over his butt!

Yes, laziness has a lot to do with our choice to EC. Too lazy to get a new diaper, and too lazy to deal with poop that somehow gets spread all over everything during a diaper change because of a wiggley baby, and too lazy to wash the diapers every other day. For every catch that we make in the potty, that is one less diaper that I have to deal with.

But it runs a little deeper than that too. That is really my "shut up, I'm different, deal with it." answer. The true answer has to do with the level that it has brought Jonah's and my relationship to. As I have said before, there is no training involved in EC. At all. Period. At the heart of EC is the "C." Communication. Jonah communicates to me that his need at that moment is to eliminate. As one friend and fellow ECer put it, it is the same to me as other mothers can tell when their child needs food, or needs sleep, or needs comfort. Eliminating is a basic need that your child can communicate to you, if you nurture that communication and awareness of elimination. After Jonah communicates to me what his needs are, I communicate back that I understand, by giving him the "cue." Now I've come to dislike this word "cue" because in psychology this word has come to be synonymous with "stimulus." And that isn't at all how it works. When I say "cue" I simply mean that I give Jonah the signal that I have understood his need and he is now in a place where he can relieve himself. It's a two way communication.

So I agree with several readers when they say that I have not trained Jonah yet- a child who is potty trained doesn't need an adult to take him to the potty, and can go on his own. What I don't agree with is that these readers often suggested that it is the parent who is trained. I do not agree with this, because as I said, there is no training involved. No training for anyone. It is all about communicating and responding to needs, not training.

It is not a waste of time because it in fact saves me time. As said above, I don't need to wash as many diapers as often, I don't need to find a clean one to put on, I don't need to wipe the entire area of the derriere. It takes about half the time to put Jonah on the potty and let him go there than it does to change his diaper. One reader in particular asked me why I would choose to stop pumping breast milk but continue with EC. I want to address this particular question, because it upset me at first. So much that it has taken me months to even respond. It probably seems like I spend a LOT of time on EC because that is what this blog is devoted to. Practicing EC does not take up so much time that it impedes on other aspects of my parenting. Practicing EC does not mean spending hours away from my child with very little results. Trying to pump full time with breasts that are no longer producing more than an ounce of milk, does. I did not choose EC over breastfeeding, and that is a completely different chapter in my life.

So why do I do it? In a nutshell, because it is an extension of my family's lifestyle. It is listening to my child and his needs, and providing for them. It is not letting my son sit in his waste for any amount of time. Because it is the best thing that I know to do for my son.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The search for a midwife

When I was pregnant with Jonah, I was terrified of giving birth. It made me feel like a terrible mother, but just the thought of what had to happen to get this little being out into the world made me panic to the point of being nauseated and dizzy. Because of this, I read countless books on various techniques of birthing, birthing philosophies, and the physiology of what would be happening to my body as this little guy was pushed out. Through all of my research, I began to realize that it wasn't *birth* that terrified me; it was going to the hospital.

The needles, the lack of control, the feeling that the staff is working *on* you and not *with* you. These things are what terrified me and made me sick to my stomach. I also did not have a good relationship with my OBGYN at all. She was cold and crude and frankly I did not trust her.

While looking for motivation, or inspiration, or just some sort of reference point, I looked up birthing videos on youtube. I was expecting to see videos similar to what we were shown in high school health class. Woman on a table screaming, legs spread apart, and a doctor pulling a crying infant from her and whisking it away to be monitored, weighed and measured. What I saw instead were women having beautiful births. They were taking part in their own birthing process, catching the baby in a moment of joy as they kneeled down with a contraction. Women laying in tubs with their partner, giving a soft groan and then a baby emerging from the water in the father's arms. Beautiful moments caught on video that I felt privilidged to be seeing.

"That's what I want for my baby." I told my husband. I emailed him link after link of homebirth videos and resources. I really wanted to do this. My family felt differently. I already had a doctor who knows my situation, who knows the history of this pregnancy.Why switch now? It's too late to switch. The insurance won't pay for it. Where will you find a midwife? What if something goes wrong? Shouldn't you have your first birth with a doctor so you know what to expect?

All of these things were told to me by my family. Sadly, I decided to have Jonah in the hospital. I still regret my choice, as does Daryl. The way that we were treated in the hospital is not the way that anyone should be treated during or after giving birth. We have decided that, unless there is medical reason to go to a hospital, then giving birth in the hospital is NOT for us. And so, we have started the journey towards having a completely natural out-of hospital birth.

In Cleveland, it was very difficult to find a midwife to attend a homebirth. Ohio is not a friendly place for homebirth midwifes. This is not because of any dangers, but because they threaten to take business from the healthcare system. The only stand-alone birth center we had was shut down years ago. The only option for out-of-hospital births was a home birth. Now that we live in Toledo, we have access to our choice of birthing centers across the border in Michigan. Finding a midwife who would attend our birth was as easy as asking women for reccomendations. I recieved so many that I am actually in the process of interviewing them to find a birth attendent that jives with us the most.

On Thursday, I went to interview the first midwife on our list. I was really hoping that I would know right away if she was the right midwife for us. The birth center is only a half hour away from our house, and it offers a lot of resources such as classes and community support. We took a tour of the center first. It was beautiful. The room where women give birth is a simple bedroom, with a comfortable bed and the cozy feel of home. There is a kitchen area complete with a full fridge that women are encouraged to eat from as they labor. It was a beautiful place, and I can envision myself birthing this child there.

The midwife however, didn't strike that "she's the one!" chord with me. I wasn't sure what to ask, and so instead of helping me fill in the blanks by explaining how this works exactly, there were a lot of minutes of awkward silence. She wasn't too keen on the fact that Daryl couldn't make it to the meeting. She scolded me for saying that I want an ultrasound to find the gender of the baby (which was a lighthearted joke on my part) and she made a comment about my no longer breastfeeding Jonah when she saw him taking a sippy cup of milk (and if you've been reading this blog for long, you know how sensitive I am on that subject. It wasn't my choice!)

She does however support so many views that we hold as a family. For example, she has a birthing circle every monday at the center. This is a group of expecting mothers that come together and chat about natural parenting, their previous birthing experiences, what they expect this birth to be like etc. Then they have a guest speaker and a discussion on a specific natural parenting topic. This week they are discussing cloth diapering. I think that this is a wonderful resource to get support from other women in our community that are doing the same thing that we are.

And so, even though I have two other midwives to interview, I may make the first couple of appointments with this first midwife. If I still don't resonate well with her after one or two appointments, then I will most likely switch to another midwife. She is the closest to us (the other midwives are nearly an hour and half away!) and also seems to be the best equipped.

Monkey Bites

Jonah eats these for either snack or breakfast! They're simple to make, and always a hit with my finicky eater!

Monkey Bites:
1 piece whole wheat toast
Apple or Pear Butter
1/4 banana

Spread the apple butter on the toast in a pretty thick layer. Cut up the banana into bite sized pieces. Cut the toast into bite sized pieces and place a banana bite onto each piece. If you think it's easier, you could put banana slices on the whole piece of toast and cut the bite sized pieces with the banana already on.

If you have a toddler older than two, you can use peanutbutter or any kind of nut butter in lieu of the apple butter. Because it is an allergy concern for children under the age of two as well as a choking risk, I don't allow Jonah to have nut butters. So I made this recipe with fruit spreads.

I hope your little one enjoys these as much as Jonah does!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Announcement

A little less than two years ago, I got into trouble for keeping a secret from my family,and the order in which I told family members said secret. First of all, I did it in part to protect my own emotions, as well as the privacy of my relationship. I did not keep this secret out of malice or ill-will to any of my family members. Trust me, I wanted to shout it out to everyone I knew. But I couldn't, and I am sorry to my family whom I hurt.

The secret that I'm talking about is the early stages of my pregnancy with Jonah. I've since learned that the internet seems to be the most fair way to reach everyone at the same time. I've also learned that it does no good to keep things secret that are already floating around on the internet. A few close family members already know, and so before this cascades into another "you should have told us sooner" charade, I want to tell everyone, all of my readers, family members, and dearest cyber friends: Daryl and I will be having our second child this May. We are being cautiously excited at the moment, because my history of early miscarriage always looms in the back of my mind when I see two pink lines on a stick.Unlike Jonah, this was a planned pregnancy. We want our children to be very close in age. We've been trying to concieve long enough that we had given up for this cycle, and I was planning on talking to my doctor about seeing a specialist within the next three cycles. They always say that it happens right when you throw the towel in!

Here I would like to add a disclaimer, because I know several friends and family members read this blog that may not be comfortable reading the details of our journey to get pregnant. Keep in mind that this is a blog mainly for mothers and natural parenting techniques. Since that includes natural methods of conception and contraception, I decided to share these details as another aspect of our natural lifestyle. So if you are not interested in my meunstral cycle, read no furthur!

Most doctors will ask the woman when her last period was, and assume that conception happened fourteen days after that (cycle day 14- the date deamed "typical" to ovulate, by doctors.) However, because I used fertility charting as a tool to know what my body was doing on any given day of my cycle, I know for a fact that I did not ovulate on the 14th day of my cycle. I ovulated on the 23rd day. I often ovulate later in my cycle, something that I wish I had known before I had labor induced with Jonah. If you go by my last period, as a tradditional doctor most likely would, then I'd be two weeks earlier in my pregnancy than what they say I should be. So when I reach what by their calculation is 41 weeks, I would only in reality be 39 weeks. This is important because, as we found out with Jonah, as the 40 week mark looms closer, the doctor seems more eager to induce labor.

You might ask how I know so certainly that I ovulated so late. Since Jonah was born, I became very interested in knowing what was going on inside of my body. Since being a teenager, my cycle has always been whacky. I knew already in my early stages of puberty that my body was doing something different from what seemed to be "normal." My body ticked to it's own clock, so to speak. Throughout my adult life, I had several issues related to fertility. I had begun to see doctors about it, and I was first diagnosed with something called endometriosis. But the doctors weren't really satisfied with that, and recommended that I get further testing for PCOS. I never did, and in fact I stopped seeing these doctors almost immediately after because of some very dramatic situations in my life.

So you see, my fertility and anything related to it has always been a mystery to me. A confusing laberynth. I wanted to sort it all out after Jonah was born, so I started charting. What did I chart? Different fertility signs, that when you put them altogether, you can tell exactly where in your cycle you are at for that day.

The most prominant fertility sign that I chart is my basal body temperature. I used a simple basal thermometer that we got from Target, and took my temperature every morning before getting out of bed. This would tell me in hindsight when I ovulated, because before ovulating my temperature would be around 96.4, but after ovulating it would be 97.8ish or even above 98. This wouldn't help predict anything, but it does help you to understand what has been happening in your body.

The most important thing that I charted is cervical mucous. The consistency of it can tell you what your body is ABOUT to do, because it changes in preparation of ovulation. It is cervical mucous that makes a woman's body liveable for sperm, so without the correct consistency, the sperm will die before they even reach the egg. By the time I ovulated this cyle, I had given up with my temperature. But because of changes in my cervical mucous, I knew the day that I was going to ovulate. I took my temperature over the next week, and the steady rise confirmed. Two weeks later I knew to take a test, because two weeks is how long it takes between my ovulating and when my period should start. (this is called the luteal phase for anyone taking notes.)

The third and in my opinion, the most optional, fertility sign that I would chart is the cervical position.

If your interested in learning more about how to understand your cycle by fertility charting, I highly reccomend the book "Taking Charge of your Fertility." You could also ask questions and discuss fertility charting at the JustMommies fertility charting board.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Farmers Markets: The Benefits of Eating Locally

If you had been in downtown Perrysburg on Thursday at 5:30 PM, you may have seen this: A woman pushing a stroller, with her baby secured to her hip by a bright blue sling, balancing eight pints of raspberries, blackberries, and concord grapes in the seat where a baby would normally go, holding the basket on the bottom of the stroller with her foot to keep it from collapsing under the weight of the produce filling it, and heading off with a butternut squash perched precariously on the tray where one might otherwise find a sippy cup or toys, all while calmly sipping a fresh lemonade. What was she doing, you might ask? Buying cheese, of course!

Our local farmers market has become a favorite stop for Jonah and me every week. Every thursday afternoon, our senses are bombarded with wonderful smells, tastes, and colors. Jonah absolutely loves looking at all of the fruits and vegetables. I let him smell and touch any that I have bought. Old ladies working at the stands are always quick with samples for him, knowing that if they can get him to eat it, I will probably buy it. Jonah's two favorite stands are the flower stand, and the kettlecorn stand. When I am choosing flowers, Jonah will ever so gently touch the blossoms, and lean in to make exagerated sniffs that only a young toddler would make. When we stop for kettlecorn, Jonah watches the people crowding in for samples, kids eating popcorn from clear plastic bags two fisted, and fathers waiting in line with the impatience of a child. The kettlecorn stand is a favorite among everyone in Perrysburg. You can smell it before you can hear it, then when the popping begins to fill your ears you know you're getting close. During strawberry season, the smell mingled with the scent of the fresh berries being sold next to it. I can't think of any other tradition quite like kettle corn from the market.

I've been wanting to write about our farmers market for some time now. It has been a staple in our lives since it opened for the season, in late spring. Not only has it become a great sensory experience for Jonah, but I've also really incorporated local eating into our natural lifestyle. I've really come to appreciate the value of supporting local farmers, as well as the healthfulness of eating foods grown regionally.

I used to think that eating locally would be inhinbitive. I love to cook a variety of things, and I thought that buying foods farmed locally meant buying the same thing over and over. This is far from the truth. My quest to feed my family a majority of locally produced foods has opened up doors. Rather than going to the grocery store with my same old list every week, I go to the market and see what is in season this week. My family has been eating fruits and vegetables right after they are plant ripened and picked. This means we get what is in season, and every week that is something new. Last week, we had fresh plums, this week it's fresh peaches and concord grapes. Next week I'm sure that it will be apples. We even get locally aged cheese from the market. Cheese the way it's supposed to be- the way it would be if you went to an old european village where the only way to get cheese is to age your own milk. I can't find that at my giant eagle.

I've also learned about foods I've never cooked before. If I see something unique, I ask the person who farmed it "What is this?" and "What is your favorite way to cook it?"

As far as being healthier, it really makes sense. The food doesn't have to be preserved in any way. It doesn't have to be picked before it is ripened and at its height of nutritional value. It doesn't have to be waxed or colored or reinforced to withstand a journey across the country. It's food at its simplest. Picked ripe, and ready for your plate.

It really bothers me that while we (my family) live in a very agricultural state, most of the produce that we've been eating has come from other parts of the world. Why do we need to get tomatoes from Chile or California when there are so many farmers here in Ohio that have wonderful tomatoes. Sure, bananas and pineapples we need to import, but why canteloupe and corn and peaches? Not only is it bad for our local economy, but also for our environment. Why do we waste the resources shipping this produce to places that can and do grow their own.

And for those who still think that buying locally is limiting to your dietary choices, I have made several dinners including from-scratch lasagna, that have been 100% locally farmed. Everything from the flour and eggs that I used to make the noodles to the cheese and beef that I used to stuff it.

If you have a local farmers market, now is the time to go and check it out. Take your children, they'll love looking at all of the produce and if you include them in the process of picking it out they will be more likely to eat it when you cook it for them. There are so many things in season now, it would be a challenge to come back empty handed!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Sign for "More"

I shared a long time ago that Daryl and I have been using sign language with Jonah from birth. There are so many amazing findings about children using sign language, and the insight that it is giving psychologists into how children learn language is astounding.

Jonah had been picking up signs (that means that he was learning, using, and understanding the signs) for quite a while. I posted a link when he was first beginning to say "all done" using sign language. These first signs were crude imitations of mine and Daryl's signing. The understanding was there, but I think that Jonah needed to refine his fine motor skills before he could produce the signs fluidly. Then suddenly, he stopped signing. Just stopped. I was so upset. I went over in my head, were we doing it wrong or was he confused.... Then suddenly he started again just this past month. His signs are much more deliberate, and more like the signs that Daryl and I have been signing. His newest sign is "more." I've really been working on it with him this month. It has helped to avert several mealtime tantrums.

When we were at a playdate this weekend, we all stopped to have lunch at a little cafe. While we were waiting for his food, we gave Jonah some yogurt melts. When his food came, I put the yogurt melts to the side of the table and gave him his grilled cheese. He ate about half of the grilled cheese sandwich and started signing "more." He had grilled cheese in front of him. "You want more????" I asked him, a little confused. "More what? You have more in front of you!" He signed "more" again, and finally reached towards the yogurt melts. He wanted more yogurt! I was so happy that I had taught him this sign at that point. With all of his public tantrums, that seem to occur in restaraunts, it is really helpful that he is starting to communicate by sign language again.

Here is a video of Jonah signing "more." To sign "more" you pinch your fingers all together, like you're making shadow puppets with a closed mouth, then you bring the finger tips of each hand together, like you're making your shadow puppets kiss. Jonah touches his knuckles together. Children often create different versions of signs. It's kind of like saying "tummy" or "ma-ma" It is just easier for them that way.
Jonah Signs "More"
Now that my first week of working part-time is finished, and we're heading into the second week, I thought I ought to do a "week in review" update.

First of all, I never described what this new job is. I am working for a new science museum in Toledo that will be opening in a month. I am one of the "scientists" that will be helping guests with exhibits, answering their questions, setting up fun things for them to do around the museum (like making slime or some other hands-on activity) and manning the larger exhibits that require guests to wear harnesses or take other safety precautions. Another HUGE aspect of this job description is performing in the museum's shows. There are five shows a day, ranging in topics from combustion to the scientific method. Part of the training process that I'm going through now is just learning the five shows, getting my script down, and getting comfortable with the more elaborate experiments. On my first day, I basically set hydrogen filled balloons on fire, all morning. On my second day, I "played" with liquid nitrogen. Yes, it turns out, I love this job.

Five hours a day, for three days a week doesn't seem like a lot. It felt like an eternity though when I'd start to think about Jonah. What is he doing, did he eat his veggies for lunch, what toys did he pick out of his toybox? I miss knowing all of these details in his day. It was hard. Especially when I got home, and he was sleeping. I had to really restrain myself from going into his room to wake him and smother him with kisses. I thought it would be easy, going back to work, but after nearly fourteen months of not working, it was one of the hardest things I've done. I'm told it gets easier, and already it seems like it has. On Friday I made it all day without calling home to see how he's doing.

One of the hardest things is getting ready for the next day. I'm so used to making Jonah's breakfast and lunch right when it's time for him to eat. I never plan anything out, and haven't had to think ahead to what his menu should be for that day. Now, before going to bed on the nights that I have to work, I have to prepare both his breakfast and lunch, as well as a snack just in case I don't get home before he wants it. My sister gave us some really neat plates for his birthday. They fit on top of eachother so that you can prepare a meal on one plate, and use the second plate as a lid. Those have come in handy. Also, all of the items that I have made previously and then froze have been really helpful too. I know that Jonah's grandma wouldn't mind if I let her make whatever she felt like for his meals, but I feel a bit guilty leaving her with all of that work, and also a litle jealous too.

I also have been typing up a little letter, with the menu for the day on it as well as some suggestions of activities that Jonah likes, instructions for preparing the foods, and little notes about his evening, if he slept well that night etc. Again, I know it isn't necessary, but I really feel like I am more a part of his day this way. His grandma appreciates the suggested activities, and will write on the bottom of the page how they went, if he liked his food, or any thing new that he's been doing.

His grandma has an interest in the EC, but she has a fear of having a miss. I don't mind too much that he's not using EC for just a few hours every week. His EC is still going strong when I am home, so it doesn't seem to be effecting him much in that regards.

If we can continue to have this job fit so easily into our lifestyle, I think it will be a good thing for everyone.

Rashes and Cloth Diapers

I mentioned before that Jonah acquired a rash from the disposable diapers that we used while on our Utah vacation. When we must use disposable diapers, we typically use an unbleached, unscented brand. Being that I have never used disposable diapers with Jonah for more than a day at a time, I severely underestimated the number that we needed. With three days left in the vacation, we were on our last diaper, making a mad dash to the store around the corner from our hotel room. They did not have any unbleached diapers, and the only "natural" diapers they had were in size one. My sister uses Luvs on her children, and loves them. They have sensitive skin, and have not had any issues with this brand of diaper.

Every child reacts differently to different skin irritants, that's the thing to remember here. Jonah did not fair as well as my niece and nephew with the Luvs. After three days of wearing them, his little tush was raw by the time we got home despite ointments and frequent changing.

I thought it would go away when we started using cloth diapers and EC again. At first, it began to dwindle, and it was nearly cleared up. Then one morning I took his diaper off to find his bottom raw again, this time with welts. It looked bad, but it didn't seem like anything to go rushing off to the doctor for. After all, I didn't want to be one of "those" moms.... the kind who makes an appointment for any little sniffle or bruise. This was just a diaper rash, pretty similar to other bad rashes I'd seen in my childcare days. I bought some Triple Paste, and almost overnight the rash died down again.

A week later, Jonah woke up from nap crying. That is unusual for him, but it does happen sometimes. I got him out of his bed, put him on his potty, and he began to wail and writhe in pain. I called for my mother-in-law thinking maybe it is a UTI. We put him on the changing table where the light is better, and were shocked to see weeping blisters all over his poor little bottom as well as his penis and scrotum. No wonder it hurt him to go on the potty!

We got him to the doctor who took one quick look and right away said it was a bacterial infection. She said that a lot of children who wear disposable diapers when it's hot out (we were in Utah- the weather was above 100 F some days!) will get an infection that starts out looking like a regular diaper rash. Jonah was prescribed some oral antibiotics as well as an antibiotic diaper ointment.

So that's the rash part of the post. Now about the cloth diapers, and the reason I am blogging about this in the first place. Ointments are very very bad for cloth diapers. There is a short list of "cloth friendly" ointments including Rainforest Babies, Punkin Booty Bits, California Baby, and Burts Bees. It's also possible to make your own using olive oil and beeswax. The reason most commercial brands of ointment don't mix well with cloth diapers is because of their petroleum and zinc bases. These get on the cloth and leave a residue that hooks onto the cloth. It can cause repelling (meaning the liquid slides off of the fabric instead of being absorbed) leaking, or staining.

I've found that while the natural ointments are great for prevention, when I need to bust a persistent rash, I break out the big guns. My weapons of choice are usually PinXav or Triple Paste. PinXav is difficult to find, and sometimes has to be ordered through the pharmacy but I find it to be more effective. Triple Paste is found just about anywhere and works in about the same time it would take for you to locate or order PinXav.

Then there's the petroleum based antibiotic ointment to kill the bacteria. So what did I do to protect my diapers? It's actually quite easy. I had a pair of flannel pajama pants that had ripped. I was planning on recycling them into wash cloths. They became diaper liners instead. I cut rectangles about six inches long and three inches wide, and surged the edges to prevent them from fraying (if I can do this, anyone can. I'm a living disaster when it comes to sewing!)

When I changed Jonah's diaper, I folded the dipe and laid the flannel liner on top of it. I then put it on Jonah and fastened, just like any other diaper. They do make rice paper liners which work well, but I'm told that for heavy duty diaper creams like PinXav, they are too thin and the diapers still get stained.

I also had to strip the diapers to make sure that the bacteria was not breeding within the cloth. For one day, Jonah went back into his unbleached disposable diapers, and I loaded the diapers into the washing machine. I added a bit of bleach (I would only use bleach on diapers in this case of needing to get rid of bacteria) and washed the diapers as usual. Then I ran them through a series of hot rinses. Stripping diapers is difficult for me because I have a front loading washing maching, that only has cold rinses. Usually to strip diapers, you peak into the wash to see if there are any bubbles in the water. If there are, you know that you need to continue to rinse them out. I cannot check. You are also supposed to use really hot water to rinse, but I can only run hot-cold cycles or at best warm-warm. When Daryl and I get our own place, I will definitely be looking for a washer that is more condusive to washing and stripping cloth diapers.

So several weeks after battling this rash, it is finally disappearing. I think that it's helped that we have been using EC a lot over the long weekend, and stripping the diapers with bleach also made a big difference. Tonight before I put Jonah to bed, his bottom was completely clear.