Learning each and every day

My quest to edify myself a bit every day

Archive for the category “parentng”

Hair accessories

Sometimes, you have to seize the moment and change your plans. A few days ago, I heard the babes playing in the bathroom. This is almost never a good thing, so I went to see what was up. What I found totally surprised me. They were all crowded around the hair accessories drawer, trying to figure out a way to organize it. This drawer wasn’t originally on my “needs to be organized” list, but far be it from me to discourage the babes from organizing! I suggested that we separate the accessories into different categories, and then we set to making little boxes for said categories. We used cereal boxes, and then glued fabric on the inside to make them look less blah. The project took us a few days because we pretty much only worked on it during craft time, but everyone was pleased with the end result. You’ll notice that none of the fabric really matches. If I had my way, it all would have coordinated. As it happened, I let the babes choose the fabric from my scraps stash, so none of it matched. I’m okay with that.

hair stuff drawer

I’m glad I seized the moment!

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Day 346 – November 19

Yesterday I made some baked beans. Partway through, I realized that I needed some vegetable broth, and I didn’t have any bouillion cubes that didn’t have soy. I ended up improvising, but decided that I should just make my own broth. So today, I gave it a whirl. I used this recipe from the blog Simply Recipes. There was a huge amount of chopping to do (nothing that my new Ninja blender couldn’t handle), and it took several hours to cook everything down and strain it out. In the end, I had 5 quarts of vegetable broth. But here’s the thing: I’m not convinced that it’s more economical to make your own, especially since I managed to find some cubes that didn’t have soy in them. You spend around $6-8 on just the vegetables, and then the time to chop everything and cook it down. A bottle of cubes was around $6. So, I’m thinking I won’t be making broth again. Unless, of course, I try the broth and it’s to die for!

The other new bit of information has to do with breastfeeding. Soooo, if it gives you the heebie jeebies to talk about breastfeeding, then I’ll bid you adieu and see you tomorrow.

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Still here? Alrighty. So the little boss is such a lazy latcher. He’s growing like a gangbuster, so clearly he’s getting milk, but he’s lazy and doesn’t really believe in opening his mouth very wide. It drives me NUTS! I have to fight with him at practically every nursing session to get him latched on. And when he is on, I still have to flip his lips out to make sure they are properly phlanged. So I went to the breastfeeding clinic to see if they had any suggestions. I actually learned a new little trick today, which was surprising because I have a good sized arsenal of little tricks. (Keep in mind, this is my 4th nursling, so I fashioned myself a very experienced breastfeeder.) Anyway, the lactation consultant suggested that compress the breast to make a sandwhich, (baby’s lips = bread, breast = filling). The idea is that by compressing the breast, the little ones have an easier time getting latched on and don’t get overwhelmed by breast. Makes sense, right? But there’s more. She said to make sure that the sandwhich was going the same direction as the baby’s mouth. So if the baby’s mouth was more horizontal (like it would be in a football hold or in an inclined cross cradle hold), then you’d compress the breast from the top and bottom. If it was more vertical (like it would be in a cradle hold), then the breast would be compressed from the two sides. This seems so obvious, but it was like a little light bulb went off. Ever since getting that little gem of info, my lazy latcher has been doing leagues better. Hooray!

So there you have it, two very different lessons today!

Day 333 – November 15

Okay folks, fasten your seatbelts cuz today was a whirlwind of learning!

About 10 years ago I developed this weird allergy to some fruits and vegetables. I first noticed it when I ate some watermelon, and then promptly lost my voice for about 30 minutes. My cords got super swollen, such that they were unable to approximate, thus rendering me voiceless. Then I started noticing that if I ate certain raw veggies, my throat would swell or it would get itchy, and my nose would get itchy. As the years went on, I discovered more and more fruits and veggies and some nuts that would cause that reaction. Then, today, someone pointed me to this page on wikipedia. There’s a name for my allergy, oral allergy syndrome, and I”m not just crazy! Woot!

Speaking of allergy, I learned the difference between an allergy and an intolerance. My baby most likely has an intolerance to dairy/soy. That means that his body is unable to process the offender. An allergy, on the other hand, produces hives or swelling or something visible on the outside. Now that I know the difference, it seems so easy and obvious!

The big discovery for today, soy is in EVERYTHING! I was okay with dropping dairy. Sure, it’s going to be a challenge and I’ve gotten here kicking and screaming, but I figured it would be doable. Then I was told to drop soy as well . . .. uh, that’s more of a challenge. It’s seriously in everything: peanuts, oreos, cereals, cooking spray, shortening, chips, bread, pasta sauce . . everything! Ack! This is going to be interesting!

Today was our first dairy and soy free day. For supper I had peanut cakes/burgers on the menu. That flew out the window with the knowledge that peanuts have soy in them. So I found a black bean burger recipe from Cooking Light. I skipped the chipotle mayo as I knew non of the babes would like it. I made some hamburger buns, and substituted coconut milk and oil for the milk and butter. They turned out just fine . . . they didn’t taste any different than they tasted when I made the buns with milk and margarine. That was a happy discovery! The burgers were pretty good. They definitely were better than the previous version.

Speaking of coconut milk, I tried two different kinds today: plain and chocolate. The plain was just fine on my cereal this morning. The chocolate . . .blech . . . not good at all . . .it sort of tasted like cough syrup. I definitely won’t be spending money on that again!

The most important lesson from today was that going dairy and soy free isn’t for the faint of heart. There’s alot to learn in a very short amount of time, and in many cases, you can’t mess up. In my case, it isn’t life-threatening, but if I goof up and do ingest milk/soy, then the little boss is the one that suffers. So I’m reading labels, lots and lots of labels, and trying to explain to the babes why it’s okay for me to spend the day munching on unhealthy chips while they eat other more healthy things. (Hey, I need to get fat from somewhere!)

Stay tuned to see what dairy/soy free things I learn tomorrow! Riveting, right? =)

Day 289 – October 2

Today I learned that homebirths are different from hospital births. That probably seems like a ridiculously obvious statement. And if you know me, it may seem even more ridiculous that this is something that I learned just today, given that I’ve had one hospital birth and two homebirths. But still, today the point was really brought home to me.

Here’s the biggest difference between the two. . . . . interruptions. Hospital births are fraught with interruptions. I was in postpartum for 4 hours. During that time, it was a CONSTANT parade of people coming into the room: social worker, hospital registration folks, the lab (twice), lactation consultant, and the photographer. This was in addition to the nurse coming in at regular intervals to check vitals on baby and myself. Seriously, it was NUTS! The midwife came by and said, “Okay, everything is fine so you can go home today. Try to get some rest while you wait for your other kids to come.” Yeah right! Every time I’d fall asleep, someone else would knock at the door. So very annoying! This was so not the case with the homebirths. In fact, after the 2nd homebirth, I was hoping someone would walk into the living room to take the baby so I could get some sleep without worrying about dropping of smooshing him.

I know some people like to “take advantage” of being able to rest in the hospital so they stay there the longest time possible. I honestly have no idea how people get rest in the hospital! I was so very ready to bust out of there. I arrived at 4:15 am and was being wheeled out the front door at 12:30 pm, and that was just fine with me. I should mention that I’m not criticizing hospital births or people that really enjoy them. I AM saying that they aren’t for me.

And one more thing . . . really not something I learned, just a random thought. I’ve had lots of babies, so this is pretty much old hat for me. Nothing that I was told today was news. If I was a brand new mom, on the other hand, I would have been utterly overwhelmed with the amount of information thrown my direction just hours after having given birth. Seems like there should be a better way than to bombard a hormonal woman with gobs of new information. Maybe that’s why you leave the hospital with all sorts of folders full of information that you can then digest at your leisure, and in all of your “free” time.

Anyway, so after two hospital births and two homebirths, I can say without a doubt that barring any complications, homebirths are where it’s at for me.

Day 227 – August 5

Today, the babes and I finally finished four skirts that we had been working on for the “Skirting the Issue” project. A project sponsored/run/invented (not sure which word to use here), by the ladies that blog at Simple Simon & Co. and Project Run & Play. When I learned about this project, I thought this would be a great project for me to work on with the babes for several reasons.

1. It would give us a chance to do some simple sewing using their sewing machines.
2. It would provide a great excuse to use up some of my ever-burgeoning fabric stash.
3. Most importantly, it would give me a chance to teach the babes a valuable lesson about doing kind things for others. DS1 was really quite into it. He wanted to make a whole bunch. Since I put it off until the last minute, we had to limit it to four skirts. DD was less excited at first . . .she didn’t think it was as much fun to make stuff for other people. But then she got into it and wanted to make shirts for the girls in foster care as well=)

The project definitely took me much longer to do since I was working with the babes. They have a woefully short attention span. The 5yo would run the hand crank for maybe 10 minutes, and then he’d be done. The 3.5 yo was more hit and miss. Sometimes she was good for 10 minutes, other times she wouldn’t even make it through one seam before getting bored. The 2yo had the longest attention span, strangely. But, sewing with a 2yo is harrowing and an exercise in patience. “Wait, don’t go yet!” “Whoops, you’re turning the crank the wrong way.” “Oh, not so fast!” “No, no! Don’t turn the crank, I’m trying to thread the needle!” In any case, we got the four skirts done over the course of about 3 days, working off and on.

This first skirt was super easy to make. My 5yo DS says this is the his favorite skirt out of the four. We used the ruched skirt tutorial from Begin with B.

I’ve always wanted to make something out of the vintage pillowcases that I have laying around. This project gave me the perfect opportunity. This is also the only skirt that I made on my own from start to finish. Presenting, the paper bag pillowcase skirt. The tutorial is from Jen who blogs at iCandy. Another super easy skirt to make. For some reason, I didn’t have any thick ribbon. So I took a wide piece of bias binding, folded it in half, then sewed the skinny ribbon onto that. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

This next skirt is one I’ve made before. This version was much easier since I only did one layer. The tutorial is here and it’s by LiEr who blogs at Ikat bag.

For the final skirt, I used a tutorial from Lindsay at The Cottage Home. She calls it the double layer twirl skirt. I didn’t use seersucker. Actually, I’m not exactly sure of the fabric content . .. I’m thinking it’s a lightweight polyester.

So now we just need to contact a Foster Care agency here in town. If there isn’t one, we’ll send the skirts to the ladies who put together this wonderful project!

Day 217 – July 26

I tend to be a paranoid parent. I’m always checking and double checking that I have my keys when I go outside. I always like to keep my babes close. I worry that they’ll disappear in a crowd. That they’ll run out in the street. That they’ll mysteriously disappear. That they’ll drown. I suppose some of these fears are founded and some aren’t.

Today, I learned that the drowning fear is pretty well founded. Did you know that African American children are three times more likely to drown than any other race? I discovered this while watching an Olympic preview on NBC. There was an interview with an African American swimmer who has made it his goal to teach young black children to swim. I was really shocked when the statistic was stated. Why would one race be so much more likely to drown than any other race? If it’s a matter of lack of funds for swim lessons, there are poor people in every race. I can’t remember who did the research, maybe U of Connecticut? Anyway, some people there conducted some interviews trying to find out why so many black children don’t know how to swim, and consequently drown. Even when offered free lessons, many parents turned them down. The biggest reason . . . . they have a fear of drowning. Quite ironic.

The report told of a family that lost three boys in one day. They had gone to a river with some other friends. One friend got in and shortly thereafter started drowning because the bottom fell out from under him. Three boys jumped in to save him, even though none of them knew how to swim. The story ended very tragically with the original boy being saved by someone from a different party, and the three brothers drowning, while the adults in the group looked on helplessly. And I say helpless, because none of them knew how to swim. Just heartbreaking!

I still don’t know why this population is more likely to have unintentional drowning deaths than others, but it’s really strengthened my resolve to expose the babes to water and teach them how to be safe in the water.

Here are two webpages with info on the drowning rates:

The CDC
An organization called wee-swim.

Day 195 – July 4

Based on the number of posts I’ve written over the past 10 days – which is to say, none – you’d think I hadn’t learned a thing. On the contrary, I have learned all sorts of things, as I spent my vacation geeking it up with lots of babywearing friends. I always think I’ll have all sorts of time to blog and do other things while on vacation. Somehow, that never ends up being the case!

So, on to the lessons learned.

A good number of vendors attended the conference and had booths set up in the Vendor Hall. Britax had a vendor booth and I visited them to talk about carseat safety. They confirmed what I already knew, and showed me the correct way to do the pinch test for the straps. They also referred me to a website: safekids.org as a place I could go to find good info on car seat safety as well as an inspection station.

Another vendor with a booth was Infantino. I was curious to see what their mei tai (MT) and soft-structured carrier (SSC) looked like, so I went over and tried them out with the help of their demo doll. (All of my wearees had gone back to the hotel.) While there, I spent a good deal of time talking with the lady at the booth, who seemed to be the person who designed the carriers. Infantino has gotten a bad rep in the babywearing community for various reasons. I fully expected to be talking to someone who didn’t really know what they were talking about. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised at how lovely the lady was, and how well-grounded she appeared to be. We had a nice conversation regarding the differences between being a WAHM making carriers and being a larger corporation. We discussed how designing a new carrier takes a LOOONG time. We talked about the fact that sometimes it just takes time to sew a carrier or accessory, even if it’s not particularly complicated. I really enjoyed talking to her and was happy to receive a hug at the end of our conversation.

One of the classes I took at the conference was on using a rebozo (or a mid-length piece of cloth) to assist in labor. This was such a great class! I had the privilege of being the demo belly, as in, most of the techniques were tried out on me. My hips had been killing me from all of the walking, so I was very happy to be the demo belly! After that class, my hips were MUCH happier, and I came away armed with lots of different methods that I’ll be using during labor this time around. I suppose I could try to explain the techniques, but they are really best understood in a visual manner. She shared some tips for the following:

– how to encourage a baby that is posterior or in a less-than-optimal to flip
– how to block out distractions to help mom focus
– how to provide counterpressure on the hips during a contraction
– how to help a mom figure out where to push, because saying “it’s like pooping” is not really accurate. My favorite statement by Amy: “It’s in the same neighborhood, but it’s a different house.” So very, very true.
This pic shows Amy and I demonstrating the “help a mama figure out where to push” technique.

The doula that taught the class was Amy Bookwalter. If you are in the DC-MD-VA area and are looking for a doula or childbirth educator, you should check out her webiste: rosebuddoula.net.

Rachel Coleman, creator of Signing Time, was the keynote speaker for the conference. Although I found her signing videos a little too cheesy for my own tastes, I enjoyed hearing her story, very inspirational. It was nice to hear from someone else how using sign language from a young age had made such a difference in the life of her daughter.

There were two other vendor booths that I visited: Ergo baby and Baby K’tan. Visiting the Ergo booth confirmed for me that Ergo’s aren’t a good fit for me. I’d never tried one until this weekend, but I never thought they would be comfortable based on what they looked like. The back of the carrier is quite low and it seemed to me that would make for a less-than-comfortable carry. I tried the carrier on with my 24lb toddler. I was correct, not particularly comfortable. It wasn’t terrible, but it was definitely much too big for me. It was cinched down to the point of being too tight across my chest, and I still could lift the shoulder straps two inches. This meant that the top part of my toddler wasn’t snugged into my back, which translated into uncomfortable carry. So, it was good to discover this, though. And good to try that carrier so I can be better versed when helping others with their Ergo. (Although I don’t personally like the Ergo, I think there are plenty of people that find it comfortable and really love it. This is simply my opinion of how it fit me, not about the carrier in general.)

And finally, Baby K’tan. A good friend of mine used the K’tan with her first baby, and seemed to like it. I was intrigued as I’d never seen anything like that before. Since they were at the conference, I decided to see how the carrier worked. This is another carrier that I don’t think would work all that well for me, but it’s definitely something that would be great for beginning babywearers who didn’t want to have to faff about with 5 yards of fabric.

I’m sure there are other things that I learned, but I can’t seem to remember them at the moment.

Oh, I learned about traditional babywearing in Japan, went to a very interesting lecture on what research had been done in relation to babywearing and positioning, and went to a talk given by an occupational therapist discussing why certain positions are more optimal than others. Maybe tomorrow I’ll share some of the specifics learned in those classes. I’ll close for now, so as not to overload your brains! =)

Day 181 – June 20

Summertime is the perfect time for having kiddie pools. Up until now, we’ve had the very small pools. We started out with something like this, and then branched out to this . But really, those were all too small for the 5 and 3 year olds. So this summer, I bought a larger pool, one that holds about 300-350 gallons of water. I wanted to keep the water from being gross, so I called a pool store. The guy was like, “Yeah, well, that’s only like 30 cents of water, just refill it every day.” Uh, is HE going to pay me 30 cents every day for the whole summer and come to my house and go through the giant PITB that is emptying and refilling the pool? I don’t think so. Needless to say, that conversation ended abruptly.

I did a bit of searching online, and discovered that the best way to keep a kiddie pool clean was just to shock it with a chlorine treatment every now and then. I’d seen some chlorine treatment at the store yesterday, but it was like $25 for a BIG bucket and we certainly wouldn’t use it all this summer. Fortunately, this website suggested using regular chlorine bleach. You use 1/4 tsp for every 10 gallons of water. That, coupled with a pool cover will cut down on the number of times you’ll have to empty and refill the pool. I’ve not tried this yet, but I’m going to give it a whirl and see how it goes. I’m hoping it works, cuz emptying out 350 gallons of water was a giant pain. The babes had fun throwing buckets full of water all over the lawn and themselves, but it was still a giant pain!

Catching up from vacation – Part 1 (Days 124-127 — April 24-27)

We’ve returned from out vacay, and as promised, here are all of the posts of things that I learned while away. Laziness is dictating me to lump everything into one post.

Day 124 – April 24
On Monday, I made messenger bags for the preschoolers. I wanted the straps to be adjustable so that the bags would be useful for more than just a year or so. A few years back, I found this tutorial on how to make an adjustable fabric strap from Angela at Sew Loquacious. It seemed like a great idea at the time, so I bookmarked it and then promptly forgot about it. When I was making the bags, I remembered the tute and looked it up. Happily, there was an updated photo tute with more pics and clearer directions. So, I cut my fabric and set to work. They were surprisingly easy to make and I was really happy with how they turned out . . . . until I tried to use them. I’d adjust it so that the bag would be smaller, and then as soon as I’d pick it up, it would slide all the way to the longest setting. I tried it on the babes, and it actually stayed, until we acutally needed to use them in the airport, and then it kept sliding! Grrr! Such a great idea, but it definitely didn’t work out for me. I think there’s a way to solve that problem, I just haven’t had a chance to sit down and figure it out. In the meantime, I’ve just sewn some quick stitches to keep the straps in place, and I’ll manually adjust the bag and restitch as necessary.

Oh well!

Day 125- April 25
We have a TV at home, but we don’t use it very often. Partly due to lack of time, and partly because we only get very basic channels. So, when we are staying in a hotel, it’s fun to check out some of the other stations, like TLC, Discovery, Animal Planet, etc. Tonight before bed, we were watching a show called “Wicked Tuna”, which follows several fishing boats and chronicles their adventures in trying to make a years salary during a two week period.

I’ve always liked tuna. I didn’t say loved, just liked. It’s not something that I eat very often at all, but I like tuna salad sandwiches. Tuna comes in these little tin cans, and I always imagined the fish to be about the size of red snapper or salmon. Imagine my surprise when I saw them catch the first tuna and it was around 500 pounds! It was ENORMOUS! I had NO IDEA that tuna were so giant! And the guys on the boat were rejoicing since that one tuna would fetch them around $5000! Who knew?!

Day 127 – April 27
This weekend we were at a church retreat for the 3-10 year old set. As such, lots of parents were there with their kids. I was really surprised at how much stern parenting I saw. Now, I have no problem with using a stern voice with the babes. Today, it struck me that maybe I use it too often and maybe I should relax a bit and try to be more gentle. I guess I saw myself magnified in the people around me. It sort of made me sad to see how stern and seemingly heartless alot of the parents were.

I was in one group where a little boy was having trouble focusing because, well, he’s 4 and was VERY sleep deprived by this point. (There were activities all day, no naps, and very late nights, sometimes as late as 10:30pm.) The parents kept yelling at him and after awhile started waving a belt as motivation. (This is not at all intended to be a post debating the merits or pitfalls of spanking. This is just a part of the story.) I tried to sit with him and gently motivate him to behave, steering him away from poor decisions. I noticed that after a bit of doing that, he would gravitate towards me. When we’d be walking from one activity to the next, he’d come up and hold my hand. Or if we were sitting on the floor, he’d come over and sit in my lap. It made me realize that in most cases, a soft voice is more effective.

So, I’ve decided to be less dramatic and stern with my own babes and more calm, yet firm to see if that helps improve their behavior and our family life in general.

Day 122 – April 22

Apparently, I have high behavior expectations for my children. I think that they should obey when spoken to, be polite and kind to others, and generally be happy children. Oftentimes, I feel like we are failing miserably as they seem to behave like little hellians at times. We just recently started being able to make it through an entire church service without them going bonkers. At home, we feel fairly out of control.

Apparently, my expectations are too high.

Today we went to an open house. It’s a house I’ve admired for years, and when it went up for sale last summer/fall, I was interested as the layout seemed decent. So the 3 babes and I went to check it out. It was past their naptime, so I was thinking that there was potential for disaster. Plus, this particular realtor struck me as someone who would not at all be patient with crazy kids, or kids at all. So, I went in with a bit of trepidation. I thought that the babes behaved okay, not great, but okay. As we were leaving, the realtor bent down and said to my oldest, “You guys did such a nice job and behaved very well. You listen to your mama, she’s a good one!”

Blow me over with a leaf! Then she turned to me and said, “Really, they were very well behaved.”

So, either people expect children to be terrors at all times, or our kids really aren’t that poorly behaved.

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