Monday, April 27, 2009

Slingin it! The Evolution of our Baby Wearing Relationship

Since Jonah was born, there has been one item that has been the staple in my sanity. The one item that gets the title of "baby gear I cannot live without." Something that I have multiple versions of to keep in multiple places, lest I be caught without one. This golden item is: My sling. Oh the wonderful gift from heaven that gave me free hands once again! Jonah was a very needy new born. I was also a very needy new mommy. He did not like to be put down, and I did not like putting him down. We were the perfect pair, really. Except when my husband started to notice all of the laundry piling up, dishes getting crusted over, and the dog complaining for walks. I was also being bombarded with phone calls from friends "Why aren't you responding to my emails???" Um, because that takes two available hands!!! 
The first time I tried the sling, it was a little awkward. My sister lent me a ring sling that was homemade by one of her friends. I slipped it over my shoulder just as she taught me, made sure the ring was in the right position... okay, now fold the fabric like so... or like so? put the baby in.... I look like a fool! That was honestly my first remark as I looked in the mirror. But, I had to walk the dog. I needed to get out of the house. I still felt awkward, but I took a deep breath and stepped out the door with my puppy trailing behind and my baby in my pouch. A jogger
  stopped by to oogle at the baby. She asked how old he is. That is when I had that moment that all new mommies have. The "wow, I'm a mommy" moment. The "This tiny guy is so dependent on me, because I'm his mommy" moment. I think that it's because it was that moment that brought me those feelings that I am so attached to slinging Jonah. I don't know if it was in fact the sling that brought it about, or if it was just the first time an outsider had noticed and asked me about my baby, but either way I bonded with the sling at the same time that I was bonding with Jonah.

Since then I have made several adjustments to the way I wear Jonah. I have bought several slings. A padded ring sling, a hot sling, a baby bjorn carrier (for my husband) and some mommy-made slings. Some of them are long lengths of fabric that are secured by two rings (giving them the name ring sling) and some of them are simply tubes of fabric that are fitted to create a "pocket" for baby. In the beginning, I wore only a ring sling, and Jonah rode facing out like a baby kangaroo:
or sometimes he rode cradled:

As he got older, I started to feel very comfortable with facing him towards me. This is the only way that he rides now. 
The more we used the sling, the more uses we found for it. I used it for nursing in public, and even used it to nurse at home. By wearing Jonah in the sling, I could discretely unbutton my shirt and give him full access to the "milk bar" as I vacuumed, folded laundry, or even when I went grocery shopping! One time I was shopping for scrapbooking paper, and the sweet little old lady who was at the register decided she'd take a peek in. She got an eye full when she saw my sweet little booger nursing as she pulled the fabric back! He of course instantly pulled off to look at her, which just made her view all the better!

It also has been a tremendous help with elimination communication. I've been able to tend to the housework while keeping an eye on Jonah's cues, as well as knowing exactly when I've missed a cue. He often rides naked, or with just a coverless diaper so that I can tell instantly when he has to use the potty. 

I've worn him while dancing with my husband, and while playing skee ball! Sadly, I'm getting the feeling that this too will become a thing in our past. Jonah has become so independent, that he is beginning to prefer other options to the sling. He really enjoys sitting in the shopping cart seat, for example, and will sometimes yell at the grocery store until I take him out of the sling and put him in the cart. He doesn't cry, he yells. Looks right at me, opens his mouth wide "AAAAAAGHHH" then I put him in the cart with a sigh. He'll make a fine toddler.He would also rather be playing on the floor with his toys as I do chores, instead of sitting in the sling as he used to. This is fine, because he is getting so big that he's kind of in the way when I wear him to do chores. Although, I do get kind of lonely while switching the laundry out.

I am not sure how I feel about this newfound independence of his. Part of me is glad that he won't be "attached" to me for forever. There *is* talk about adding a new addition to our family, and I can't imagine having to wear him while pregnant. I most likely will do it a little bit, but it's nice to know that I would be able to put him in his pram and he'd be just as happy at this point.
Daryl and Me Dancing with Jonah

Jonah and Me playing Skee Ball with the sling

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Post-sabbatical life

Several of my readers have asked me how things are going after my nursing sabbatical. I had two sabbaticals within one week: one one-day sabbatical, and one three-day sabbatical. On these days, I put all of my housework and other obligations on hold in order to re-establish a nursing relationship with my son. The idea of it is, to nurse the entire time, increasing milk production as well as interest from the baby. 

The sabbatical definitely increased my milk supply. For about two weeks after, I produced plenty of milk for nursing as well as for cooking Jonah's food. Jonah's interest, however, petered out shortly after our normal routine set back in. It seems that he turns to nursing for comfort, or for bonding time with me, but when he is really hungry he will have nothing to do with it. I am coming to peace with this. Our nursing schedule has become sort of what I thought it would be once he hit toddlerhood. He nurses when he is upset, has had a scare or after shots at the doctor. He nurses before bed, and at naptime. He likes to nurse at least once a night. It seems to be a comfort to him; something that tells him "it's okay; Mommy's here." I take peace in knowing that he still nurses throughout the day, and that I do still produce milk to offer him. I do not cry any more every time I make him a bottle that is 100% formula.

But just because I have made my peace with the bottle does not mean that I have lost my obsession with the function of the breast. I still think that it is one of the most miraculous organs that women have. I still attend La Leche League meetings to discuss breastfeeding with other mothers. They are, surprisingly, accepting of my choices, and have been very supportive of me throughout this whole process. I still plan on nursing my son through the second year if that is possible, and only stopping when he feels he is ready. I will do the same with any future children as well.

I had hoped that the sabbatical would be the first step in getting Jonah back to full time breastfeeding. Unfortunately, Jonah's mind is already made up. It took me a while to be okay with this. Sometimes it still upsets me, but I try to only think about the healthy boy looking back at me with the big goofy grin on his face. He is happy, and he is healthy, and that is all that I need to confirm my choices.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Peek into my Diapers Drawer

Something that I've come to realize when having Jonah out of the house in his cloth diapers, is that there is a lot of confusion about the modern cloth diaper. This confusion trickles down to expecting mothers who are interested in using cloth. Mothers who are new to cloth often find the amount of information on the internet overwhelming, and difficult to decide what kind of cloth diapers she should be using as well as how they work. 

I have had a lot of questions about the various styles of diapers that Jonah dons on his derrière. I have seen every reaction from "what the heck is that?" to "it's not old fashioned anymore!" So, I would like to give everyone a quick tour of our diaper drawer, pointing out all of the gadgets and conveniences of the modern day cloth diaper.
We, like several other cloth users, have several different styles of diapers. The style of diaper that we choose in a particular moment is unique to the situation. Are we going out? Is it naptime? Bedtime? Playing at home? Do we need something quick to put on or can we take a little time? These situations influence what diapers we reach for. 

The most convenient diapers we own are called all-in-ones (AIO.) This kind of diaper is the closest you can get to how a disposable works. Just as the name suggests, it has the cover and absorbent component all in one nice package. We have two AIO's, one Thirsties pocket AIO, and one AIO that is made by a work at home momma on Hyena cart called a TK Cuddler. These are very convenient because you literally just velcro them onto your baby. One drawback, though, is that you can't control how much absorbency each diaper contains. They are also one of the most expensive diapering options. They are great for quick outings, or for babysitters and daycares as they need no extra special attention.

Another diaper that we keep for babysitters are pocket diapers. These are similar to AIO, except that you have to stuff the absorbent material into them. The material that goes into the pockets are called inserts, and come in a variety. There are bamboo, hemp, cotton, organic cotton, and many other inserts to choose from! The pocket diapers usually have an inside that is made of wicking material such as microsuede, so that the moisture is taken away from your babies skin and into the insert. We have six pocket diapers: five BumGenius, and another TK Cuddler pocket version. All of our pockets are also one-size, meaning you can adjust the size to grow with your child. These are also expensive, but grow with your child, so you get a lot of use from them.

We also have what are called fitted diapers. These diapers are the absorbent portion (you need a cover to make them water proof) but instead of having to fold and pin them, they are already contoured to fit to a baby, and either velcro or snaps to close them. They are typically very soft, and also pull the moisture from baby's skin. We have three Thirsties Fab Fitteds, and I love them. The only drawback to these is that they do not hold very much moisture, so are not ideal for long outings or night time use.

My favorite, and the most basic of diapers, is called a prefold. This is the diaper that many people think of when they hear "cloth diapers." There are so many options with the prefold, it really is a universal diaper. It can be folded to accommodate several different pottying styles, and to prevent certain diaper mishaps such as leaks or blowouts. When the diaper is folded, it is as if you are custom fitting a diaper right onto your child at that moment. If you don't like pins, you can use what is called a Snappi to fasten it, or you can simply put the cover on without fastening it at all. Prefolds are definitely abundant in our house. 

When using a prefold or cover, if you want the diaper to be water proof then you need a cover for it. I love to let Jonah go coverless when we're around the house. It is good for our elimination communication as  well as his skin. It lets me know the second that he is going potty, so that I can change the diaper right away. However, when we are out of the house, or if I am doing chores while Jonah is playing, we need a cover. We have five thirsties wrap covers, two Imse Vimse organic cotton wrap, two fleece soakers handmade by a good friend, and a Dasani wool soaker. A wrap style cover is a cover that is wrapped around the diaper and then velcroed or snapped shut. A soaker is a cover that is simply pulled up over the diaper, and kind of resembles underwear. Soakers are typically made from wool or fleece.

I hope that this has cleared up any confusion people may have about my diapers, and perhaps helped some parents who are unsure about what kind of diapers would be useful to them

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Dots

Our art project this week is in honor of Earth Day tomorrow. It was an inexpensive and simple project, that can be fun for kids of various ages.

I offered Jonah two bingo markers, one blue and one green. I picked these up at our local Giant Eagle grocer in the section that had gaming supplies (poker chips, cards etc.) In our store, it was next to the children's art supplies. They cost me a little more than a dollar a piece, but you can also find "dot art" markers, that are basically the same thing but come in more variety of colors. The markers cost about $15 for a set, so I opted for the cheaper option.

I cut a circle out of white (recycled, of course!) construction paper, and put it on his tray. I used a piece of newspaper for this project, to protect the surface of his high chair. These markers are not washable. I showed Jonah how to push the marker up and down to make dots, and encouraged him to copy my movements. He also had fun swishing the marker from side to side.

When he was finished, I used double sided tape to stick the dot earth to some dark blue paper. Black paper would also look nice, if you have some.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole

My mom is the queen of casseroles. She is not very knowledgeable in culinary techniques, but hand her a can of "cream of mushroom" and she becomes a guru. I always marveled at how she was able to come home from a long day at work, and manage to whip up a full meal for five (sometimes six) extremely picky eaters. To give an example of what my mom put up with from me and my siblings and our eating habits: My older sister Christi would not eat anything that was packaged in polystyrene. Take a trip down the meat section at the grocer and tell me that isn't a problem! And there was no fooling her. She would go to the butcher and ASK if that meat had ever touched styrofoam. 

Now that I am cooking for my own family, I'm beginning to gain insight to my mother's method of the casserole. It was fast and easy, and it made it much simpler to please everyone. Things can be hidden inside of casseroles, so even the most distinguishing palate of a picky eater cannot detect it. Tastes can be masked in cheese or ketchup, and you can make a casserole with anything. So when I decided I'd be boycotting fish, and my brothers decided they didn't like brocolli, into the pan it went and suddenly it was transformed into a food medium that everyone would accept.

I'm sharing this memory of my mother's cooking habits because it's time to begin introducing Jonah to meats. Tonight I am making my own rendition of my mother's Creamy Chicken Rice Casserole for both the adults and for Jonah. I'm a little nervous giving him meat for the first time, and I cannot explain why. It has nothing to do with fear of an allergic reaction or digestive problems, or even a fear that he won't like the texture. I am positive that it's the fear of him growing up. The fear that he will soon be moving on to table foods. The fear of what I'm going to do with all of the pureed fruits and veggies filling the entire basement freezer when he does. 

The recipe for the casserole is almost identical in its components for babies as well as adults. The biggest two differences are the way in which the ingredients are prepared, and instead of using condensed soup, I am using breast milk and rice cereal for the creamy effect.

Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole Baby Food:
Dark meat chicken with the skins
ground brown rice cereal (as discussed in previous recipes)
frozen peas and/or lima beans
one cube pureed spinach and/or brocolli (thawed)
one cube pureed carrots (thawed)

Choosing the Chicken: To choose the chicken that I am using, I looked for all natural USDA organic chicken that lacks antibiotics, fillers, and genetic altering. I went with the drumsticks, because dark meat is richer in nutrients such as heme iron and fat. While fat may be something to keep away from as adults, it is important in the developing brains of infants. The heme iron is also something that is important to me as a mother who nurses and is also anemic. Although Jonah is no longer exclusively nursed, and he takes formula for many of his feedings, I know that iron is something that my milk lacks. I also looked for drumsticks that still had the skin, because it will also contain more fat and nutrients and help retain the nutrients in the flesh during cooking.

Preparing the Chicken: I filled a casserole dish with water until it was about two inches deep. I placed the drumsticks into the dish and baked uncovered for 30 minutes at 350 F. Then I turned the pieces over and covered the dish, baking for another 30 minutes. I left the chicken out to cool for about twenty minutes, then put it in the fridge to chill.

Once the chicken was chilled, I took the skin off and discarded it (fed it to the dog. When baby eats well, so does pooch!) Save the broth to use later! I removed the chicken from the bone and placed it in the food processor. The chicken was processed until I had fine crumbles. It's now ready for the baby food "casserole!"

Putting it all together: I used the cooking juice from the chicken to cook the rice cereal. I used about a half a cup of broth and brought it to a simmer, then added the ground rice. I let it simmer for about five minutes. While the rice was cooking, I prepared the peas/lima beans in the microwave. When the peas were cooked, I pureed them in the food processor. This step can be done ahead of time if needed. When the rice was finished, I combined the veggies, rice, and about a tablespoon of the chicken crumbles. I then finished it off by adding an ounce of breastmilk.

The chicken crumbles can be frozen, as can prepared meat baby food. However, it doesn't freeze well and it is recommended to use it as soon as possible. I would suggest cooking only enough chicken for the week, or using whatever you don't use for Baby's casserole in the adult casserole!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Baby in Sheep's Clothing or How to use Wool Diapers

Recently, we have been faced with an issue of very serious importance. If it is not resolved, I think I might very well go crazy from lack of sleep. This problem is: Night Diapering. 

Very recently, Jonah has begun Peeing at night. Not just the typical soggy diaper to be changed when he wakes for his nightly nursing session. Oh no, that is just peeing.... this is Peeing (note the capital P.) I don't mind moonlit diaper changes, and they have become part of our nightly routine that Jonah has come to expect. The problem arose last month sometime, when Jonah began waking up screaming every two or three hours. I'd go into his room and scoop him up for some comfort and cuddles, only to find  that he is soaked in amonia-smelling, warm, soggy pajamas. Not only his pajamas fall victim to the relentless urine, but also his blanket and sheets. And so, every few hours, I am pulling myself out of the sleepy mindset of my warm cozy bed, and stripping a screaming baby, a soaked diaper, and smelly bedding. It is quite an interruption, needless to say, and seems to be very upsetting to Jonah.

I began reserving our pocket diapers (diapers that have an opening that can be stuffed with various absorbent materials) for night-time use only. I would put three inserts (cotton "pads") into the diapers, which is two more than I normally use with them during the day. This seemed to work for a couple days, and then we were right back to the soggy, screaming, sleepy, wet mess that we were in at the beginning. I even tried disposables, out of desperation, only to find out that they leaked much worse and even more frequently. I tried sizing up, sizing down, adjusting the fit, adjusting the velcro... all of it yeilded the same results. What really boggles me, is that these leaks occur within two or three hours. Not six or even four hours, as most diapers will last during the night. Finally, I decided that it was time to bring out the big guns. It was time to admit it. Jonah is what we would call a heavy wetter at night, and that can only be stopped by one thing:


Yes, I said wool. The stuff your sweaters are made of. Wool has natural antibacterial properties, and so it is very sanitary to use as a diaper cover. It also becomes extremely water resistant when treated properly. This is one reason why wool is used to make so many long winter coats.

I had stayed away from wool diaper covers for so long because frankly, they are scary. To begin with, they aren't cheap. You could put down anywhere between $30-$80 or more on a good quality wool cover. This alone isn't enough to scare me. The big thing is, you have to treat it. Wash it by hand, lanolize it... doing this yourself when you have no idea what you are doing, can be pretty scary considering what you paid for this garment. With our tight budget, there is little room for error. But, with our situation growing damper and damper, I decided that the only way to learn how to use wool was by doing it. 

After a lot of looking around, internet searches, and anxiety over purchasing the right cover for Jonah, I decided on a Disani all natural wool cover from Green Mountain Diapers. I chose this particular cover because it has long cuffs around  the thighs, and a high rise top that can be folded down. These features ensure a great fit on just about any shaped baby, and they also give me reassurance that there will be no leaks from the sides or top during the night. It seemed perfect for our situation.

The day that the order came in, I was excited as well as nervous. Finally, a wool cover of my very own. It looked so fresh, and felt so soft. How did I ever use any other fabric. Then I realized, I had to figure out how to treat Jonah's wonderful new piece of clothing. I read the tag on the cover. It said "Do not soak" Then I read the label on the Lanolin and Wool Shampoo. It said "Soak overnight." Hm. Now what? After some putzing around on the internet, I finally felt comfortable enough with what to do. 

I filled my bathroom sink with warm water and added about a half ounce of the wool shampoo. Then I added two ounces of the Wool Cure, which is basically pure lanolin (yes, the same stuff you put on your boobs if you're breastfeeding!) I mixed it around a bit, and gently submersed the wool cover. Then I retired to the bedroom to read a magazine for about a half hour. I went into the bathroom. The first thing I noticed was the odd smell. I think it was the way that wool reacts to lanolin. It didn't smell terrible, but not like roses either. 

I pulled the plug in the sink and allowed the water to drain through the cover. I gently pushed the water out of the garment without wringing it (I didn't want to distort the fabric) I then took two towels and placed them on the floor, one on top of the other. I placed the cover on one end of the towels and folded them over, pressing them down on top of the cover in order to soak up any excess water. Then, I laid the cover out to dry over night.

We have used the cover several nights so far without any leaks. I have been using a pinned prefold with an extra hemp insert underneath it, and change it when Jonah wakes for his nightly nursing session. We haven't had any midnight or early morning surprises, and I'm pleased to say that my laundry basket has not been overfilled with crib sheets and baby pajamas since we started using this cover.

If anyone is having any issues with night time leaking and their cloth diapers, I would highly recommend wool as the solution. It might seem like a splurge, but when you consider the relief it gives you knowing that you won't have to strip and sanitize everything in the middle of the night, I think it is a necessity. 

When EC doesn't work

There are several times when our elimination communication just does not work. Some of those times, I know it is possible to EC through if given the same lifestyle, but it just doesn't work for us. 

We can't use EC, for example, during night time or naps. Some families are able to communicate with their infant beautifully even when they are sleeping, but there is no way it will work with our lifestyle. The biggest reason is that it is impossible for us to safely bed share. Bed sharing is when the infant sleeps in bed with the parents. We cannot safely do this, because of many reasons. For starters, I sleep walk. Not only do I walk in my sleep, but I DO stuff. Just the other day, I wanted to take a shower and the soap was not in the bathroom. I looked everywhere for it, and finally found it IN THE BED. Weird. Weird, and very unsafe for an infant. Also, our "real" bed is still at our home in Cleveland, making the bedroom beautiful for prospective buyers. The bed we are using currently is actually two twin mattresses pushed together on their bedsprings. This means that there is a giant crack in the middle of our bed. Also very unsafe for an infant! So, Jonah sleeps in a crib, in a separate room for his safety. This makes it pretty much impossible to practice EC during the night. Another thing that makes it very difficult to practice EC while he is sleeping, is that he pees A LOT in his sleep. He urinates without stirring or waking; he gives absolutely no cues.

Other times that EC isn't ideal for us is when we are somewhere that does not have a bathroom, like the grocery store for example. I have not figured out how or where to take him to potty while we are shopping. Car trips, such as the frequent drive we make between Toledo and Cleveland to visit my family, are also very difficult because not only do I have no where to take him, but my focus is on driving and not the cues of my son. Anytime that we are away from home is especially difficult. We are both a little off in our communication when we are in different surroundings. At my mother's house, I try to practice EC, but I usually get peed on several times. Between me paying attention to other things, such as my family or activities, and Jonah wanting to explore a different territory, we have a lot of missed communications!

I read about families that go diaperless 100% of the time. I am glad that they have found a lifestyle that accommodates elimination communication, and perhaps someday with future children we will too. But for now, we are quite happy to have a part-time diapered baby!

Dinner for one!

One of the many reasons that I love making Jonah's babyfood at home, is because of all the variety that I can offer. Not only does he get an array of single foods (gala apples, granny smith apples; bartlett pears, bosc pears, etc) but I can also have a little fun with the mixed foods that I prepare. Tonight for example, Jonah is having Veggie Stir Fry
Snow peas
brown rice

I steamed all of the veggies in the microwave and pureed them in a food processor. I've found that blenders make smoother purees, but now that Jonah is older, he is getting used to textured purees and even a few solid foods.

The rice is a bit trickier. You could use the instant rice cereal from the grocery shelf, but I prefer to make mine at home as well as the fruits and veggies. I put the uncooked rice grains into the food processor and process them until I have a powder. With my processor, it takes a very long time and so I will often use a sift to separate the powder from the unprocessed grains and save the unprocessed grains for when I want to add texture to the cereal, or when I want to make more. This cereal will need to be refrigerated, as it can go rancid unlike the unprocessed grains. When I am ready to prepare the cereal for Jonah, I take it from the fridge and add it to boiling water. I then let it simmer for about five minutes, or until it is a smooth consistency. The instant cereal found at the grocery store is basically prepared the same way, and then it is dehydrated (the reason it comes in flakes), preservatives added to keep it fresh, and fortified to replace nutrients that are lost during the dehydration process.

For this recipe, I use either brown rice or jasmine rice. Long grained rice is usually recommended, and you can even find rice fortified with nutrients if you are concerned in that department.

A similar "recipe" to the one above is served chilled. Jonah absolutely loves it!
California Roll (yes, named after the sushi)
jasmine rice

The avocado is simply mashed, you don't need to cook it. Scoop the flesh out of the peel, and mash it with a fork. Add chilled pureed carrots, and jasmine rice (as cooked per above) I often serve this to Jonah when Daryl and I go out for sushi, along with just a taste of my miso (cooled, of course.) I know that Jonah could care less if he was served this blend, or plain green beans while we are eating sushi, but I like the idea that he is eating something similar to what is on our plates.

Please make sure any food is age appropriate before feeding it to your baby (disclaimer to save my derrière!)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Painting Eggs

Every year for Good Friday, my whole family meets at my mother's house to color eggs. This year, we were very pleased to allow Jonah and his little cousin to take part in the festivities. 

First, we placed some primary colored paint on some paper and introduced the eggs. 
We encouraged the babies to roll the eggs through the paint, making a pretty picture on the paper as well as coloring the eggs. 
Jonah was really interested in eating the egg, and rolling it off of the tray. They got cracked, but both of the babies had a lot of fun painting their first eggs for easter!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

From the Mouth of My Babe

From the moment I found out that I was pregnant, the moment I saw that faint, yet unmistakeable pink line, I have been waiting for something. I have had so many wonderful experiences as a mother since that moment- all of the joys of pregnancy, the birth of my first child, the milestones that he has crossed- but I have still been waiting for something.

One word, one tiny little word that lets me know that my son recognizes who I am, that he knows that I am the one who cares for him, who loves him, and lets me know that he loves me too. Until last week, I was a mother. But now, I am very proud to say, I have been dubbed by my son as "Mom."

It happened very gradually. It began as a syllable he would repeat over and over if he wanted something. "Momomomom.....Momomomommmmmm...Moommmmm...." I guess I will get used to that, as I'm told it doesn't change much. Then it started to become more focused. He would look at me with outstretched arms "Momom! Momom!" Then, on Saturday it happened. Clearly, unmistakably. 

Jonah was napping while I was folding laundry. I heard him startle and then wail out, on the monitor. He was pretty upset about having woken up. When I rushed into his room, picked him up out of his crib, he laid his little head on my shoulder, tears wiped on my cheek and his slobber soaking through to my shoulder. He lifted his head up a little... "Mom." then went back to sucking on my shirt.

Perhaps it is a little conceited to take so much joy in relishing this moment. I am now Mom. No longer Jess, or Miss Jessie, or that childhood nickname my dad had for me: Bo. I'm Mom.... mom... That word is pretty loaded. That word is reserved for boo-boo healers, monster chasers, bully handlers, story tellers. And now, it's me. Conceited or not, it is every "mom's" rite of passage to bask in the thought that their child can say their name. Their child knows who they are.

On Tuesday, during my father-in-law's birthday celebration, the family was sitting around the table waiting for dinner. Jonah was in his high chair, enjoying a biter biscuit. He is beginning to experiment with gravity by throwing everything off of his high chair. His biter biscuit, although he really was enjoying it thoroughly, was no exception. Over the side of the chair it went. As I picked it up, and Jonah began to realize that I was NOT going to put it back on his tray, he became very upset. As I walked back from the trash can, he said it in front of everyone. Tears in his eyes, lip puckered out... "Mom!" It was oscar material, I'm telling you. That kid melted everyone's heart at the table. Maybe I spoiled him a little, but I gave in and got a second biter biscuit, my heart singing as I unwrapped that crunchy little cookie.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sensory Painting

Painting is such a huge sensory experience for young children, and so I love to pack as much into it as I can. Combining the senses of smell, taste, touch, and even sound enhances the activity and makes it special for Jonah. We recently did these art projects that utilize multiple senses:

Oatmeal Oceans
This project is probably one of the messiest art projects that I know of, excluding anything involving glitter of course. It provides a way for Jonah to explore the sense of touch.

I mixed oatmeal into purple, yellow, and blue paints, until it was the consistency of the oatmeal that I eat for breakfast. I plopped the globs of textured paint onto some blue paper, and encouraged Jonah to put his hands into it. At first he looked at me as if to say "really? I can touch that?" Then he went to town! 
The reason that I call this project Oatmeal Oceans, is because a long time ago a co-worker of mine thought that the oatmeal texture made the paint look like the crests and foam of the sea. The name stuck, and I can't think of it as any other thing.  Jonah's painting, however, did not look like wave crests! Very little of the oatmeal actually stayed on his paper. He enjoyed squishing it in his hands so much, that any time he saw some just sitting on the paper, he had to pick it up. 
When he was done squishing, he saw fit (of course) to throw it on the floor. He did smash it against the paper, but he opted to remove the oatmeal from his painting. He is an oatmeal minimalist, I guess.
Jackson Pollock would be proud!

Primary Circles
I dipped the edge of a formula can into primary colored paint.
I put a piece of white paper on Jonah's tray, and encouraged him to bang the can up and down on the paper. You can use oatmeal containers or bread crumb containers- anything cylindrical- if you don't have formula cans handy. This activity introduces sound into our art. The formula can makes a nice metalic "thunk" every time it hits the paper.
 It also encourages a movement that is very vital in the way older infants and young toddlers explore the world- BANGING. Banging is very important. If you've ever observed a one year old trying to figure an object out, you know what I mean! Jonah enjoyed banging and exploring the can, and the colors on the paper, but he didn't seem very fond of the loud noise. Noises have been scaring him very easily recently. Next time I will use the oatmeal container, which has a softer sound when banged. 

Cloth is the Better Fit for our Family

"Why don't you just put him in a disposable for now?"

I get asked that question just about as often as I was asked "Why don't you just give him a little bottle of formula?" when I was exclusively breastfeeding. 

I really would like to answer back "For the same reason that you don't temporarily wear paper panties!" Maybe I will someday, but for now I usually just smile and say that I like the cloth better. My answer is usually met with that face people make. The "Are you crazy?" face. The "Are you stuck in the dark ages and can't get with the times AND crazy???" face. I have heard a lot of arguments in favor of  the disposable diaper, but none of them seem to stand up to scientific facts and the time honored traditions of cloth diapering momma know-how.

One argument is that cloth really isn't better for the environment. That in fact, they are worse for the environment than disposables. The reasoning behind this is taking into consideration all of the electricity and water each household uses to wash their cloth diapers. Most proponents of this argument claim that because there is no washing involved in disposables, that there also is no electricity, water, and waste water involved. Unfortunately, they have not taken into consideration what happens to the environment before that diaper ever hits their baby's bum. All of the energy, electricity, and water that is used at the factories to make those diapers is forgotten. All of the waste that is pumped out of those factories falls by the wayside, and the countryside, and the riverside. And then, there is the packaging and shipping of the diapers as well. When you consider that this process is done over and over and over, the waste per disposable diapered child becomes exponentially larger than the "waste" created by those parents washing their child's cloth diapers. 

Another argument that I hear a lot, is that disposable diapers are more absorbent. Yes, this may be true (although with the number of leaks I've seen with infants in disposables seems to be much greater than the number of leaks that I've encountered with Jonah's cloth) But why would that be? Why would a paper product be more absorbent than a cloth product? Which is more absorbent: the paper towel, or the terry cloth dish towel? (hint: it's the dish towel) So  why are disposable diapers more absorbent than cloth diapers? Because the disposable diapers have chemicals in them to make them more absorbent. Cloth diapers have materials such as cotton or hemp to give them absorbency. Disposable diapers have chemicals such as dioxin (related to liver disease and immune system suppression) and polyacrelates (causes al
lergic reactions, severe skin irritations, scrotal and perineal tissue bleeding, toxic shock syndrome, staph infections, and many many more averse symptoms.) Dioxin is a by-product of the bleaching process, and can be avoided if you buy unbleached, chlorine free diapers such as seventh generation or earth's best brands. Polyacrelates are the jelly-like beads that you can see seeping from the diaper when it has been saturated. You can often see these sticking to the baby's bottom during a diaper change. This chemical is what makes the diaper absorbent, with the ability to hold two hundred times its weight in water. Yes, that is a lot of water, but let me repeat "scrotal and perineal tissue bleeding." And you want me to put that chemical where?

We chose to use cloth diapers not only because they are healthier for our children, and environmentally friendly, but also because they fit our lifestyle. I have always been actively seeking to reduce the amount of waste that I throw in the trash. Reusable is always better, in my book. One person pointed out to me that we may be saving money, but what about the valuable time that I am wasting, taking more time to change each diaper (and more frequently, without all of that scrotal bleeding chemicals to back me up in the leaks department.) The truth is, I don't view that time as wasted. That is quality time that I am spending with my child. If I wanted to, I could fold, pin, and cover a cloth diaper faster than any parent using a disposable diaper could change. But I choose to savor this moment. I get face to face time with my son. The changing table is the perfect height for tickling games, song singing, and pat-a-caking. I talk to him about our day, what we did or will be doing, I marvel at his smile. I cherish the moments we have at the changing table. Yes, we saved a ton of money (Jonah's diapers paid for themselves before he turned three months old) but we didn't sacrifice our time to do so. In fact, I think we enhanced our time.

Also, because we use elimination communication, cloth diapers have been completely facilitating. While I'm learning Jonah's cues, he can play and have fun in a coverless diaper. I can see the exact moment that he is eliminating, and he can play freely without me hovering over him waiting to sop up any mess from a missed communication. I often will leave him with an un-pinned diaper as well, so that when I do see a communication I can quickly get him into "position" over the potty. When he wants to be free and naked as a jay bird, I can lay the diapers on the floor around him, so that there will be an absorbent barrier between his naked little bum and my mother-in-law's expensive carpet.  I honestly don't think that elimination communication would be possible with disposable diapers.

Finally, (and this is my reason more than it is my husband's) they are just plain cute. They are different and unique. There is a style of cloth diaper to match every baby's personality. On Etsy and Heyena Cart, there are tons of work at home mommies that make cloth diapers specifically for your child. You can often buy your own fabric and send it to these talented women. You can coordinate outfits to diapers, or diapers to seasons. A cloth bottom is definitely cuter to look at than a paper bottom!