Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Show and Tell: All-In-One Cloth Diapers

In honor of last weekend's Great Cloth Diaper Change, this week's Show and Tell is about cloth diapers, specifically All-In-Ones or AIOs. I admittedly had a rough start to my relationship with cloth diapering, but now cloth diapers and I are very much on again. I've been back at it for a couple months now, and I have really settled into a good rhythm with it and have grown to love it.

Before I quit my job after having my second daughter, I researched cloth diapers, read reviews and consulted cloth diapering friends. I know myself well, and know that I'm lazy, so I wanted something that was fairly easy-care and as close to disposable diapers as possible. I settled on All-In-Ones and after reading many reviews, settled on BumGenius.

Now that I am back at it, cloth diapering my 16-month-old during the day and using one disposable diaper at night on her and on my 3-year-old, we are saving more than $40 per month on diapers, which as a stay-at-home mom is a huge help.

Instead of buying diapers every week or every month, you buy diapers once. They are one size fits all, from newborn to 35 pounds, so they will fit your baby from birth to potty-training. The size is adjusted by the snaps on the front, which change the size between small, medium and large.

Each diaper comes with a newborn insert, to fit the diaper when it's snapped into the smallest size, and a regular size insert, which has snaps to adjust it between small, medium and large as well. The absorbent inserts are stuffed inside the waterproof covers, which are made of a fabric called PUL, or polyurethane laminate.

For naptime, I put one regular-size insert and one newborn insert into a cover, and that is absorbent enough to keep my daughter dry and comfortable. Here she is sleeping happily, with a blue BumGenius peeking out!

Both my daughters are "heavy wetters" at night, and no cloth diaper would stand a chance, so that's why we use disposables at night. I used to use disposables when going out, too, but now I've gotten so used to cloth diapers, I use them when going out without a second thought.

As someone who was squeamish about cloth diapering, AIOs have been a great option for me. It feels great to save both money and the environment, and I'd highly recommend them to anyone who wants to give cloth diapering a try!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I swear...

I swear a lot. I swear profusely and creatively. I have since I was a kid. When I was pregnant, I heard friends with kids talk about having to stop swearing now that they have kids and I thought, "Not me."

For one, it's too big a part of my personality to give up now. For another, letting a curse-word or two (or ten) rip is like a steam valve. It releases a little bit of the pressure and stress we all feel. I always feel a little bit better after swearing, so I was not surprised when I saw this article on CafeMom this week, about swearing alleviating pain during labor.

You bet I swore during labor, having given birth to both my children completely naturally. Had I not sworn early and often, I don't think I would have made it through it either time. I imagine most women let one or two good naughty words go during labor whether they planned to or not. How could you possibly bear that kind of pain and discomfort, not to mention the inevitable anxiety and fear without releasing it somehow?

After my first daughter was born, I never even considered giving up swearing. My parents had a "do as I say, not as I do" policy on swearing and it backfired terribly. By swearing themselves and then telling me I couldn't, they made it that much more desirable to do. By demonizing it and showing me that it was a way to shock them, that made me want to do it even more.

Once when I was about 10, I said "s#!t" and my mom decided that as punishment, I would have to write "s#!t" 100 times. After I had written it about 20 times, I was doubled over laughing, enjoying the punishment far more than the crime itself. Mom must have found it funny, too, because a couple years later, I found the "s#!t"-covered paper in one of her drawers.

Since I was not going to stop swearing and I knew the "do as I say, not as I do" approach did not work, I figured that my husband and I would just model proper profanity usage for our children. We swear at home and in the car, but not at the grocery store, at the park, at friends' houses, or anywhere else. We swear at inanimate objects or when we hurt ourselves, but not at people (unless it's in the car, when those other cars might as well be considered inanimate objects). We never use swear-words as insults.

So far, it's working. My 3-year-old almost never utters a curse-word, despite hearing them many times a day from myself and my husband. On the rare occasion that she does, she uses it appropriately. For a while, if she didn't like something, she'd haul out a curse-word and hurl it at me. That got her many a time-out, and it stopped.

I believe that home is the only place where you can truly be yourself, truly relax and truly express yourself, and that's how I want our home to be. Therefore, freedom of expression reigns in our house, and that includes profanity. And why not? When used properly, it's funny, it's a stress-reliever and it doesn't hurt anyone. I wouldn't survive Seattle traffic or the frustration of daily life without it.

I will one day have to explain, however, that not all people in other cars are @$$holes. While merging into the HOV lane one day, I waved at a person who kindly let us in, and my 3-year-old chirped, "Thanks, @$$hole, that was really nice of you!"

Then again, that did, as usual, act like a steam-valve, releasing the pressure and turning a stressful drive in hellish traffic into an absolutely hilarious one.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Princess Culture - The Real Deal: Why My Three Year Old Will be Watching the Royal Wedding With Me

This week the world will watch in wonderment (or mocking derision or complete apathy) as William, the Prince of Wales marries Catherine the Stylish. While I'm normally a fairly snarky and cynical gal, I've chosen to join in the wonderment circle this go-round and will have my three-year-old daughter right by my side as we behold the pomp and circumstance of the Royal Wedding.

Since I don't want to get hauled off for child abuse, I won't wake her at 1:00 am to watch, I'll DVR it like a good mum (see, I'm even starting to type with a British accent) and let her watch it at 7:00 am when our guests arrive for a princesses & pajamas party.

Disney has so commercialized the "Princess Culture" that many parents are turned off by the whole concept. Not me - at least not when it comes to real princesses (Princess Tiana, we'll talk later about how I think you could have set your sights a little higher than an unemployed, unskilled, poverty-stricken guy with only a title to his credit, but that's neither here nor there today). No, today I am all in awe of the soon-to-be Princess Kate and I want my daughter to witness it, right alongside me.

In today's culture of Hollywood celebrities, class seems to be, if not missing entirely, then at least severely lacking. Stars seem to go to rehab as often as I go to Costco (which is a lot, trust). Jail time, crotch shots and potty-mouthed celebs are everywhere. And that's not even getting into the pseudo reality-star celebrities... While I personally enjoy the smut-factor involved here - it makes for great reading at the hair salon, it's not exactly the example I want for my daughter. This is why I welcome Kate Middleton to the celebrity scene with open arms.

While Kate is very much a "real girl" and surely will have her share of missteps, she generally appears to be more polished and elegant than your average tabloid persona. By no means do I want to place her on a pedestal, from which she would surely fall, as they all seem to do, but I do appreciate the grace with which she seems to carry herself. Her style is classic and elegant (I personally believe she promises to out-fashion Princess Diana, the icon style-maven who would have been her mother-in-law). I want my daughter to watch her and see that you don't need to get all hoochie-mama'd out in order to be popular.

The fact that Kate is a "real girl" is yet another reason I want my daughter to watch Friday's wedding. Kate's lesson isn't that normal girls can meet and marry a prince. Kate's lesson is that real girls can study hard and get into prestigious universities, excel in their studies and graduate. Then, they can go ahead, get a job and work hard, while pursuing a fun social life on the side. That's a lesson I want my daughter to learn early on and if she does it while wearing a tiara, so be it.

Kate also teaches us that even if you marry the prince of your dreams and have a fairytale wedding, chances are, you’re going to have some oddball in-laws to contend with. No jewelry collection in the world can save you from that inevitability.

The other reason I want my daughter to watch the Royal Wedding has nothing to do with Kate or the Windsors. It has to do with the collective world experience that this event will be. With cable TV, the internet and every other distraction around, there are fewer and fewer shared events in society these days. Now that we all have more than three channels and multiple TVs in the house, people don't experience and witness events together like they used to.

While everyone who was alive at the time of President Kennedy's assassination can tell you where they were when they heard the President had been shot, now there are fewer and fewer of those collective experiences that we all share. The Olympics and the Academy Awards aren't as strong in uniting our collective history as they once were. But I believe this wedding will be as close as it comes to a shared moment around the world and I want my daughter to be able to say that when she was three, her mom served mimosas and invited all of the neighbor ladies over in their jammies to watch the wedding and toast the happy couple and that she, my daughter was part of it all.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Our Favorite Posts of the Week

We're behind on our reading but we wanted to share some of our favorite posts from other bloggers' last week:

Aiming Low: Spread Too Thin (No, it's not about peanut butter sandwiches gone wrong, it's about how social media can get a little overwhelming at times).

The Dawning of January: Motherhood: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (So relatable)

PhD in Parenting: Playing With One, Playing With Two (Balancing the needs of your kids when you have more than one)

Suburban Kamikaze: Top OPI Nail Colors in Suburbia (A fun laugh)

Perfectly Disheveled: A New, Old Me (Mommy's wardrobe gets a make-over. Okay, this is a little old but we've been dreaming of having someone do this to our closet since we read it, so we had to share).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Show & Tell: You Pee. I Pee. We Love to Talk About Pee-Pee

Who goes pee-pee on the potty like a big girl?! It feels both like yesterday and eons ago that I was in full-on potty-training mode. Ankle deep in wet underpants and carpet cleaning solution. Next to teaching your kid to drive, teaching a kid to go potty on the potty has got to be the most dreaded of parenting responsibilities.

There were a couple of great finds though that helped make that daunting parenting task a little easier to take though and I'd like to share them with you.

Diapers Are Not Forever. This little gem of a book made it very simple for a young toddler to understand, was encouraging and just great. My daughter LOVED to read it while sitting on her little potty chair. It works for both girls and boys. We had several other potty-training books but this one was, hands-down the BEST. 

The Potette. Have potty, will travel. At $10 you can't go wrong. This little beauty makes it stress-free to take a potty-training toddler anywhere. Sadly, I can testify that it fits in your purse (Note: I'm assuming you're using a mom purse and not a cute going-out clutch). It has little grocery store-style plastic bags with a padded lining inside to soak up all the - eh, you know. Just tie up the bag, toss it and you're off. During the early stages of potty-training we used this constantly - at the park, in public restrooms (my daughter was afraid of the loud flushing noises made by those industrial toilets), in the back of the car... Now that she's been potty-trained for nearly a year, we use it much less frequently but it still comes in handy when we're at a street fair or somewhere that doesn't have a potty (or suitable potty) readily available. Good luck and happy urination!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Being myself while being "mom"

Dana hit the nail on the head with this week's post. I am among the 94% of moms who feel guilt. I feel guilt about many things, and one of the things I find myself frequently feeling guilty about is letting myself be myself while being "mommy."

I find myself so busy taking care of my two kids that I have a difficult time fitting in any me-time. When I try to scrounge a bit of me-time, I end up feeling guilty about it. "I should have been interacting with my kids." "I shouldn't have let them watch TV while I tried to do something I wanted to do." "I hope I didn't hurt their feelings when I wouldn't come look at whatever it was they wanted to show me at that particular moment."

When I was growing up, once I got to be in about junior high, my mom (who was a stay-at-home mom throughout my entire childhood) started going to art school during the hours that my sister and I were at school. Suddenly the house filled up with easels, paper, canvases, acrylic paint, oil paints, solvents, gesso, pastels, and the beautiful art that my mom created with these things. It was fascinating. I loved it. I thought it was so cool and I loved watching my mom paint and draw and I loved telling my friends that my mom was "an artist."

Then she got rear-ended one day and that screwed her neck up so that she had to stop for a while. Even after healing from the accident, she didn't go back to taking classes, painting and drawing. I never understood why.

Despite being enthralled with watching my mom make art, I never took up painting until a year ago, a few months after my second daughter was born, when I got the most uncontrollable, undeniable urge to paint. When both girls were napping, I'd give myself twenty minutes or half an hour to play, experiment and paint. I had an unbelievable amount of fun with this new-found creative outlet, this gooey, gloppy, wonderful, cathartic pastime.

Then my older daughter stopped taking naps, and there went my tiny bit of creative me-time. I found ways to carve out a little time to paint by giving my daughters some washable kid-paint and painting while they painted. If that didn't work, I'd catch a few minutes to paint after breakfast, while they watched some TV or played together a few feet away in the living room. I enjoyed it, but I found myself feeling guilty about it. I felt selfish, like I should be interacting with them instead of giving myself a few minutes to paint. I felt guilty for letting them watch TV just so I could indulge in some creativity.

When my mom visited Seattle last year, I took her to Daniel Smith downtown, which is my favorite artists' supply store. It's a wonderland of paint, colors, textures, paper, easels, canvases, everything an artist could ever need. It was part of a diabolical plot to get my mom to start painting again. She bought some canvas and a couple other supplies and was like a kid in a candy store. We talked about painting and art, and she related that the reason she had quit taking art classes was because she felt like we needed her and she therefore had to give them up. She was most of the way done with a BFA, but she felt like she had to quit to take care of us.

I told her I wouldn't be painting if it weren't for her influence, if I hadn't seen her paint when I was a kid and been enthralled. I told her I wouldn't know how to do anything if I hadn't been watching her. She had no idea I'd been watching.

My kids need me to be mommy, but they also need me to be their mommy. They need me to be who I am, so they can truly know me. They need to see me do the things that I love to do so they can know that if and when they are moms, they can still do what they love to do. They need to see me be myself so they know that they can be who they are and that becoming a mom doesn't mean shedding everything else about who you are.

Therefore I refuse to feel guilty anymore when I indulge in a little painting while they enjoy some free-play in the next room, or when I need to listen to some of my music instead of Laurie Berkner Band or the Wow, Wow Wubbzy soundtrack. In exposing them to the things that I love, I might just be doing them a favor, like my mom unwittingly did for me by painting and drawing when I was a kid.

Monday, April 18, 2011

You're a Bad Mom!

"In the case of Good Parents Everywhere versus Dana, how do you plead?" "Guilty as charged your honor." A study recently confirmed that mom guilt is more prevalent than mom jeans, stating that 94 percent of moms feel guilt. I was shocked! Who are these six percent of moms that DON'T feel guilt?! I feel guilty about everything and I'm pretty sure that's the way God and the media intended it.

Let's assume that of that six percent, two percent are the crack head mothers of the world, the complete incompetents. That still leaves four percent of mothers who claim to never feel guilty. Who are these women and how do they do it? Don't they read the same articles I do? Don't they have friends and family pointing out their many flaws and short-comings? Don't they ever catch themselves yelling at their child(ren) and think they should have handled the situation differently?

I'm not Catholic but if I were, I'd need a priest dedicated solely to hearing my daily mothering confessionals. Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. Today I used the TV as a babysitter so I could shower in peace. I also forgot to replace the water in the dog's bowl. Twice I was inconsistent in my disciplining methods, threatening a time-out for bad behavior, yet never administering the punishments. Four times I yelled at my children for various offenses, rather than remaining calm and speaking in a low voice. Three times I served them non-organic, unhealthy processed meals, which they loved. I could go on but you get the idea. The guilt starts the second you find out you're pregnant. Oh, you're drinking caffeine and you're pregnant? Guilty. Is that a bit of sushi I see on your plate? Guilty. Don't have a birth plan yet? Guilty. Haven't decorated the child's room, established a college savings plan, selected a pediatrician, fully researched the best receptacle for your child's soiled diapers? Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

Last week a study was released talking about how moms with young kids tend to eat poorly and exercise less than their childless counterparts. While this was generally a big duh, I of course, felt guilty and knew the researchers had been secretly taping me. Rather than prepare two sets of lunches (and often dinners), I find myself eating a whole lot of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese along with the kids. My children generally treat healthy food with the disdain most people reserve for murderers and Wall Street bankers, so I often just make them what I know they'll eat, rather than what I'd like them to eat. (My little peanuts are smallish and I worry about them not eating enough and rationalize that empty calories are better than no calories and hey, maybe their pants will stop falling off of them at least...)

I thought about the study and tried to think of workarounds to this unhealthy diet I was consuming. But, for every workaround I devised, I found yet another reason to feel guilty. I could park them in front of the TV , grant them a little extra screen time, allowing me to cook in relative peace, without fear of dumping hot liquids on their heads as they cling to my legs throughout the entire ordeal. The verdict: Too Much TV-Time Guilt. I could let them run amok, have unstructured playtime while I cook them healthy food. The verdict: Free-Range Parenting Guilt. They would surely use the opportunity to jump from the couch onto the glass console table, crashing through it and severing major arteries, necessitating a trip the ER. Then, all of that healthy, organic food would go to waste.

So often I find mothering to be a damned if you do, damned if you don't proposition. If you tend toward the "helicopter" style of parenting, you're smothering and don't allow your kids the ability to experience life and learn things on their own. Unless you have the dedication of the Tiger Mom, this also means they're not getting into Harvard because, as some Harvard professors will tell you, what kids need to succeed is more unstructured playtime. (Or, if they do get in, you'll have to go with them because they won't know how to function without you). Alternatively though, if you're "free-range," you're going to get a lot of dirty looks from other moms and, inevitably someone will get hurt/in trouble and everyone will ask "Where was this child's mother?! Why wasn't anyone watching them?!"

Sometimes it feels like parents (and, let's face it, that's mainly the moms) get called to task for everything they do or don't do. Everything from the number of enriching Mommy & Me classes you take with your child (you're either not providing them with enough learning opportunities or you're over-scheduling them - either way, you're guilty) to the food you serve them is up for grabs.

Just as I was about to give up hope and go curl in the fetal position somewhere, I came across a book review of Bryan Caplan's, "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids" and started to feel the guilt slip away. The review promises me that the book will show me how I can kick back and let the kids raise themselves as research has shown that nothing I say or do will really matter very much in their overall success in life. For some, this may be a depressing thought but for this guilt-ridden mother, it's a breath of angst-free air.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

Oh, goodness! The awards and honors keep rolling in. We're blushing.

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! to Ms. Megan at Kitsch in the Kitchen for thinking of us. Quick, go add her site to your favorites list, then come right back.

So what is this Liebster Blog Award, anyway? This is how it's been told to us:

Some time (in the recent past), somewhere (rumor has it that it might be Germany), someone (I guessing he/she was named Liebster) decided to do something nice for a whole lot of bloggers and started the Liebster Blog Award.

It’s an award you receive, but it is also an award that you give. If you receive a Liebster Blog Award you are asked to choose 3 other bloggers and send them one as well.

Ok, then, these are the *rules*: this award is meant to highlight small blogs. So the blogger receiving the award links back to the blogger who awarded him/her, and tags 3-5 people. For those we are about to award, we should also point out there is no obligation to continue this award. If this is not your cup of tea, don’t worry.

The value behind this award is for us to get to know other bloggers who might not be well known, yet have a lot to share. And we see that. This is not about growing your list of followers (believe me, it won’t happen), but of building a community.

Here are three of our faves:
Confessions of a Super Mommy
Momalog - Good enough parenting, one day at a time.
Aiming Low - Perfectly mediocre

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award

Look at this! We're barely a month old and we're already receiving awards and accolades!

We're speechless. Well, not really - we wouldn't be bloggers if we were the kind of gals who ran out of things to say...

Many, Many thanks to Cynthia at My Life As Mom for reading us and liking us. Also, since it's practically illegal to not include a shout out to God and your mom for your win, thanks God and thanks to our moms. ;)

This award comes with a few conditions, so here we are, in full bloggy compliance.

To formally accept this award you are asked to do a few things:

• First thank and link to the blogger who gave you the award.

• Share 7 things about yourself.

• Share this Award with 15 other bloggers.

• Contact these bloggers to let them know that they got the award.

THANKS CYNTHIA! My Life As Mom. We're so appreciative of the mention and thank you for reading our blog.

7 things about us:

1. We're three moms

2. Between us, we have 5 kids

3. Two of those kids have the same name (no, not from the same mom - that would be too George Foreman for us)

4. Sara can do a mean knit & purl

5. Mrs. Lampshade's passport has been getting quite a workout since her hubby got stationed in Europe

6. Dana's trying the "Mediterranean Diet" and has eaten so much garlic in the past week she could ward off vampires within a 50 mile radius

7. We all connected/re-connected via Facebook. Viva la Social Networking!

Share this Award with 15 other Bloggers: There are so many wonderful bloggers out there, it's nearly impossible to pick but here goes...

1. Momalog
2. The Dawning of January
3. Perfectly Disheveled
4. Wacky Dad
5. Suzan's "Life is Better in a Tiara"


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Homebirth and why I wouldn't do it again (Hint: it's not why you might think)

I'm sort of the crunchy-granola one around here at 18 Years to Life. I'm the cloth diaperer and the one who gets organic produce delivered every week from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. So it only stands to reason that I also have given birth to both of my children 100% naturally and medication-free, both out-of-hospital.

When I got pregnant with my first daughter, I bought several books on childbirth and started researching my options. Knowing that my mother gave birth to both myself and my younger sister 100% naturally, I wanted to do the same. After reading several other books, I read The Birth Book by Dr. Sears and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, which became my favorite books on childbirth and solidified my decision to go 100% natural if I was lucky enough to have a normal, healthy pregnancy. I was lucky enough, and saw a wonderful midwife for my prenatal care. When it came time to decide whether to give birth in her birth center or at home, I decided on using her birth center because I had never given birth before, so I wasn't 100% sure that my body could do it. The birth center was two minutes away from a hospital, and that gave me a great sense of security. We also lived in an apartment at the time, and I didn't want the neighbors to hear all the commotion and call 911! So when I went into labor with my first daughter, after two days of prodromal early labor (that sucked, let me tell you), we finally went to the birth center once active labor finally got started, and my beautiful first daughter was born about twelve hours later. It was painful beyond anything I could have ever imagined, but it was exactly the way I wanted it. She and I were both completely awake and aware, no drugs or chemicals in our systems to interfere with our first meeting. I got to experience every nuance of her entry into the world, and I loved it.

When I got pregnant with my second daughter, we were looking for our first house. Knowing that my body could indeed do it and that I could indeed tolerate the pain, we decided that if we managed to buy a house before she was born, we would do a homebirth.

It's not as crazy as people think. Midwives are highly trained medical professionals and they bring all the medical equipment needed with them. They have oxygen, resuscitative equipment and other safety equipment, plus the experience and knowledge that comes with having assisted hundreds of women in giving birth naturally.

We did buy a home when I was seven months pregnant, so it was decided: we would do a home birth. With my daughter due to be born in December, I was so happy that we wouldn't have to drive to the birth center in potentially terrible weather or drive our newborn home in the freezing cold. I was happy that I'd be able to give birth in my own bed, with all of my comforts and all of my stuff.

When on December 6th my water broke at 4:00 AM and I went into labor, I called the midwives and my doula to give them a heads up. Everyone told me my second labor would be quicker, but ha! It was not. My contractions finally got painful enough and close enough around 6:00 PM that evening, and I called my doula and the midwives and asked them to head over. Once they got there, the main midwife assessed my condition and told me I was actually not close to giving birth at all, but had quite a way to go. They considered leaving and coming back later. I got a little scared and prayed that they wouldn't leave, because I felt like my labor was really getting going. Thankfully they did not leave, because I was right. My labor really got going and started making serious progress shortly thereafter.

To keep my spirits up, I watched Monty Python while my doula used her pain management techniques to help me withstand the pain. It worked great. However, as with my first daughter's birth, my labor continued to take its time. My water had broken about 20 hours earlier, and the closer we got to 24 hours, the closer we got to the possibility of my having to be transferred to the hospital for a C-section. We had to get the baby out.

Once I was able to start pushing, to accelerate the baby's downward movement, my midwife had me get into a veriety of positions. In each position, the other midwife used a fetal doppler to check the baby's heartbeat and make sure she was doing OK. She didn't tolerate some positions well and her heartbeat slowed. Thankfully through the use of the fetal doppler, they could find this out and have me get into a position where her heartbeat stayed normal. This was pretty scary, and the clock was ticking away, getting closer to that 24 hour mark. The main midwife decided it was time to use a classic midwife's trick: to have me get on the toilet to push. It sounds uncouth, but the downward gravity caused by being in that position is great for helping babies move downward.

One of the midwives and my husband helped me into the bathroom, where I sat on the toilet and waited for the next pushing contraction. I was pretty exhausted at this point and was ready to do anything to get the baby out. When the next pushing contraction came, I pushed with all my might, and felt the baby move down. Success! When the next contraction came, I pushed with all my might again. When the next came, I grabbed onto the doorknob to brace myself, pushed as hard as I could and heard a loud CRACK! Instantly, freezing cold water started rushing around my feet.

I limply whimpered, "What the hell just happened?" as I looked up at my two midwives, my doula and my husband. Their eyes got as wide as dinner plates as they realized what had happened. "Oh, no, get her out of there!" someone said. They came to help me out of there and my husband explained, "You broke the toilet tank in half!"

He rushed in and turned the water off. Despite the searing pain I was in, I started laughing. My midwives, the doula and my husband were all laughing, too. The main midwife said, "In seven years of being a midwife, this is a first!"

It was just the comic relief I needed. I got a second (third? fourth?) wind and very shortly thereafter, pushed my baby out, 22 hours after my water had broken. She was handed to me instantly and I happily held my 8 lb. 10 oz. new baby daughter, exhausted but happy to have made it through naturally once again.

I had a long, sometimes scary labor, but through the training and brilliance of my midwives and the pain-management techniques of my doula, I made it through. If we have another baby, I want to do it naturally, but I wouldn't do another homebirth. Not because there were some scary moments, not because of being under the gun to get the baby out or face a C-section.

Because I would not want to have to remodel.

If I happen to break another toilet while bringing a baby into the world, it will be someone else's.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Sold My Soul for an Attached Garage

Throughout most of my 20s I viewed life in the 'burbs as a fate worse than death. Then I got pregnant.

Being the completely irrational person I am, I immediately started checking the test scores for our local elementary school. Appalling. I wouldn't have sent my dog there. Then, I started looking into tuition for private school - astronomical. I calculated what it would cost to get two children through elementary school and before uniforms, contributions to school auctions, etc., I figured we were looking at $100k! This wasn't even for the really top-notch private schools. So, my husband and I decided that we could put the money we were saving on private school into a nice house in the 'burbs where the schools were good and tuition was included in the property tax.

The next thing I knew, we were unpacking boxes in our big, new suburban house. The first people I met were the women who lived on either side of us. They were both trim, blonde and walking Golden Retrievers (and they each drove a Suburban). I thought - S@*t!, we've moved to Stepford. Given that I'm also blonde and have a Golden, I realized that though my SUV wasn't a Suburban, it was still an SUV and I probably belonged here.

Shortly after moving in, my husband came home from work to find a whole gaggle of neighborhood kids weeding our front yard. One kid told him to roll down his window, which my husband did, and the kid said, "We just weeded your yard, can we have five bucks?" We were floored. What kind of 1950's universe was this where the Beav and the gang shows up to weed your yard? Who were these kids?! I remember being bored as a kid but I just whined about it - I would never have stooped so low as to take my boredom to do yard work for people. What kind of kid does that? And thrilled! We could get our whole front yard weeded for the price of a latte!
Here's the thing though, all of my skepticism aside, my neighbors are AWESOME! Our block is full of interesting and nice people. My next door neighbor who barely knew me (seeing as we'd just moved in) and another neighbor I'd probably only met once, hosted a baby shower for me and the whole neighborhood showed up. They did a lovely job, with beautiful, handmade invitations and a gorgeous spread. It was beyond welcoming. While I'd lived in the city, our next door neighbor had never once said so much as "hello" to us. He wouldn't even make eye contact as we all pulled in our trash on garbage day. Yet here, the whole neighborhood was literally showering me with gifts and kindness.

In the past four years, I've grown to love our life in the 'burbs. The kids can play in the street and my son, who's not yet two, already knows to move to the sidewalk when someone yells, "Car!" The older kids (even the middle school ones) are so nice and solicitous of my toddlers - they'll even hold their hands and help them cross the street.

One of my neighbors even became one of my closest friends. Sadly, she's recently moved away but while she was here, we could count on each other for playdates the moms would enjoy as much as the kids, for someone to watch your kids while you had to run an errand or go to the doctor, for someone to help inject your day with a bit of fun, adult conversation when you sorely needed it. A few of us, whose husbands often work late, even got in the habit of hosting casual dinners with just the moms and the kids, which was a treat for everyone.

There are some downsides to the 'burbs, I will admit. I miss the cute, downtown core that made up our city neighborhood. I also miss the great restaurants and bakeries. While our suburb is quite nice, it does have its share of strip malls, which let's face it are an eyesore and who can tell one strip mall apart from the next. So I often struggle to remember which strip a particular store I'm going to is located in. I also love the charm of older homes, which are obviously not found in a new development. Probably though, the thing I miss the most is the image that my 26-year-old self had of me being a cool, urban mom who still knew the hot new restaurants in town and carried a gorgeous handbag.

But, when I start to miss the city, I look at my large pantry and my three-car attached garage (which means I'm never hauling kids and groceries inside in inclement weather) and remember that older houses, while charming, are often not practical. And I think about how Mr. Crotchety-pants in the city never would have seen my Facebook status update about being out of coffee and rushed over with a piping, hot cup for me like my wonderful suburban neighbor did, and I think, Viva la Suburbia!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Show & Tell: Nighty-Night. Sleep Tight.

Parenting is a 24/7 job. Thing is, it would be so much better if it were a 13/7 job. For me, sleep-deprivation is hands-down the most torturous aspect of motherhood. So, Sara's post about co-sleeping yesterday really resonated with me. My first-born is a notorious "bad sleeper." My daughter is now three and a half years old and my mother still asks me how her night was during our daily chat every morning. My daughter will often fight going down for the night and is a very restless sleeper once she does go down.

My husband and I have tried everything - from holding the door closed while she screamed on the other side to having the Sleep Fairy come visit, to accepting a co-sleeping situation that was bad news for everyone. While she never started the night in our bed, she'd often wander in around 2:00 a.m. and I was either so exhausted that I just allowed it or flat-out asleep and didn't even notice she was there until she was well-established. And, in my stupefied state, I just allowed it. Did I mention she's a total bed-hog and also very dictatorial in the sleep patterns of others? I pity her future spouse because that guy will get an earful every time he tries to roll over in bed or asks that she not rub his arm while he tries to sleep...

Lately though, we've had a few breakthroughs and I'm going to share some of the things that worked for us. These are fairly age-specific and best suited to toddlers around 3 years of age(though the book has tips for all ages).

First up: Dr. Ferber's Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems. Before you start working up a rant in the comment box, hear me out. Our family's pediatrician is phenomenal - I've had a total mommy-crush on him since the time I asked him a question and he asked me if I had time to hear the long answer. Given that I truly respect his opinion, I was willing to listen to him when he recommended this book to me.

Here's a shocker - Ferber DOES NOT advocate the "Cry It Out" approach. He's actually quite against it. He recommends letting a child cry for short amounts of time, going in periodically and reassuring them that you're there for them. I won't get into all of his philosophies and advice but he's not at all the monster he's made out to be. He has a lot of very reasonable, practical suggestions that help your child achieve sleep success. He helped me understand the inadvertent role I played in my daughter's sleep problems. Some of the things I thought I was doing to help, were actually making things more difficult for her.

A Sleep Chart is one of Ferber's recommendations that has really worked for us. He suggests giving a child a sticker/reward for nearly everything you can think of - and be generous in your judging. The more success they have, the more encouraged they'll be to continue with their good behavior. We give our daughter one sticker for going to bed and not coming out of her room, one sticker for sleeping through the night and one sticker for waiting until the green light comes on before coming out of her room in the morning (more on that, later). She can also earn one for being a good girl at nap time. The chart's on the fridge and it's a Big Deal. Every morning I drag a chair to the fridge so she can reach the chart and let her pick her stickers and we talk about how proud we are of what a good job she did. If it will get me eight hours of sleep a night, I'll do this until the morning she leaves for college.

The Stoplight Alarm Clock. Can I just say - BEST money I ever spent?! (We ordered this on a couple of months ago but it's not availale at the moment.) My daughter is insanely proud of her alarm clock. When you set the alarm at night, the light is red. When the alarm goes off (no noise so it won't wake them if they're still sleeping), the red light goes out and the green light comes on. This is very helpful for a kid who knows their colors - and gets the general stoplight concept (a few readings of Go Dog. Go!) can help teach that little traffic school lesson. My daughter loves her alarm clock and is so proud of herself when she waits until the green light comes on. She insists on showing the entire family her green light every morning - our almost two-year old is so trained in the importance of this that he immediately looks at her alarm clock and comments on it in the morning. She even calls Grandma to tell her that she didn't get up until the green light came on. Since she was in the habit of coming into our room in the middle of the night, this has cleared up any confusion about whether or not it was morning and time to get up.

It's not a miracle plan, but I get to sleep through the night about 90% of the time now, which is a vast improvement over 0% of the time. I even have so much energy now that I've started working out in the mornings again. Wow, a pig just flew by my window...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Co-sleeping sucks

We co-sleep (or bed-share, whichever term you prefer to use) with my 16-month-old, M., and it sucks.

Allow me to elaborate. I adore M. and her older sister more than life itself. I would do anything for them. The fact that I'm still co-sleeping with M. now that she's a 28 lb, 32-inch tall 16-month-old speaks to this. I am a stay-at-home mom, so I am with my daughters all day, every day, which is how I wanted it and I love it so much, I will do whatever I have to in order to remain a stay-at-home mom until they graduate from high school. That said, being a stay-at-home mom is an intense, hard job. It requires an unbelievable amount of patience, calm, stamina and a really good sense of humor. It's hard work to maintain all that 24/7 without cracking a bit. All moms need breaks, even stay-at-home ones, in order to be on top of our game. For some moms, this means spa days or even weekends away. For me, all I need, all I really want is to sleep in my bed comfortably, to be able to read a book with my book light when my long day is finally over, to snuggle with my husband, and most importantly, to not be kicked in the spine and/or face all night. It's a reasonable request.

My 3-year-old, T., never slept in our bed. She spent her first 5 months in an Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper, a wonderful, amazing product that worked incredibly well for us. It was great. If she cried, she was right next to me, and I could pick her right up and feed her without having to stand up or go anywhere. Once she got to be 4 months old, she started to get kind of big for it, so we spent the next month transitioning her to her crib, which was at the foot of our bed. She transitioned into her crib with no problem and slept there, in our room, until a few months after her 2nd birthday. It was great. I loved having her in our room for that long.

M., at 3 months, was too big for the Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper already. We moved her into her crib, which again, was at the foot of our bed. This change occurred effortlessly and she slept there happily until she was 5 months old, at which point she suddenly refused to sleep there at all and seemed to think it was a torture chamber. After a few sleepless nights, I got desperate and brought her into our bed, where she slept considerably better.

I didn't want to keep her in our bed for too long, because it meant that whenever she needed to sleep, I had to be in our bed with her to make sure she didn't roll out (even if we were to put our mattress on the floor, that's more of a tumble than I would want my baby to take). So periodically, I would nurse her down to sleep, wait till she was totally out, and then ever so gently sneak her into her crib. The second she touched the crib mattress, she would snap awake and scream bloody murder. I have no idea how she could sense that she was in the crib that she hated so much when she was completely asleep, but she did.

I gave up on getting her to sleep in her crib for months. Then at one of her checkups, I asked our pediatrician how to get her to sleep in her crib. I told her I can't stand to let my baby cry, so I didn't want to use the Ferber method or anything like that. She said she didn't like the Ferber method, either, and suggested that we use a somewhat modified method, where we put her in her crib, let her cry for 5 minutes, stick our head in the room and tell her that we hear her and that we love her, and then leave and let her cry, not entering the room anymore. This sounded just as cruel as the Ferber method, but as M. got bigger and insisted on sleeping either sideways or upside down, her feet either pressed into my spine or right next to my face, I got desperate and we gave it a try.

It was horrible. M. has a persistent personality and does NOT give up. Our pediatrician said it could take a couple hours and you just have to stick to your guns, do it a couple nights, and then magically your child will sleep in their crib. Well, M. cried for hours. I could hardly take it. It was torture hearing my child be so miserable. My husband and I slept (or tried to sleep) on the couch and at 4:00 AM, when I finally didn't hear her cry anymore, I went in to check on her. There she was, half asleep, sitting up, bobbling around as she resisted falling asleep with all her might.

I couldn't do it anymore. I went over to her and saw that her eyes were red and puffy, as if she'd been crying the entire time. I laid down with her in my bed and cried, holding her and telling her how sorry I was. We never tried that method again.

That was about 6 months ago. She has stayed in our bed this whole time, and I've slept (if you can call it that) with my 32 inch long toddler next to me, kicking me in the back, face, boobs, neck, nearly breaking my nose with her head as she rolls over, pimp-slapping me as she flails around and tries to get comfortable during a bout of teething. It has been, in a word, awful.

I love my daughter. I adore her. She, like her older sister, is the sweetest, funniest, snuggliest, huggiest little angel ever. But during these middle of the night ass-kickings, I feel angry at her. I feel terrible for feeling angry at my child for something she can't control. I feel selfish for resenting her need to sleep close to me. And then reality kicks in and I remember something important.

I'm a human being. I have needs, too. If I'm drained and depleted, I can't be the best mother I can be. I can't be the pillar of patience that I need to be when I've had no me-time in weeks, when I haven't had even 15 minutes without someone kicking, screaming at or even so much as touching me.

Therefore, we are trying once again to get her to sleep in her crib. This time, now that she's 16 months old, it is slowly but surely working. We converted it to a toddler bed and put it right next to my side of the bed, so I can reach out and touch her when I'm lying in bed. Initially, she complains and looks at me like "How could you??" when I put her in her bed, but she only cries for a few minutes. For three nights now, she has spent the first half of the night sleeping in her own bed, and it has been awesome. I feel rested, I feel replenished, by just having my own space for those few hours, by being able to stretch out, by not being kicked, by being able to read a book with my book light without having to contort myself into strange positions to keep the light on my book but off of her.

Co-sleeping is kind of all the rage right now, but it isn't for everyone. It's not for me. While co-sleeping, I've felt like I've been working 24 hours a day with no break, because sleeping with a baby in your bed is really hard work. It has been rough and I'm glad it's nearly over. My daughter will learn that when she sleeps in her own bed, I'm still only a foot away from her at night and she'll have a much more patient, much more rested, and therefore better mommy in the morning.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mrs. Lampshade's Top 15 Toddler Apps (iPod Touch)

When we first thought to buy you, we said, “I don’t know,
A $200+ electronic seems only for show.
Our child is but 3 and we never had one -
Our parents expected us to read books to have fun.”
So we hmm’d and we haw’d and we weighed con & pro
We finally concurred it was THE way to go.

The unit arrived and we fawned and we sorted.
We uploaded apps and had music imported.
Our munchkin took to it like bird takes to flight
That’s when we knew our decision was right.

We took iPod out for a night on the town
And, I assure you, it did not let us down.
We ate our whole meal with nary a peep
From our disgruntled grump toddler without enough sleep.

So whether we travel by car, plane or sea
The iPod will always be close by to me
‘Cause this mommy’s learned that heck or high water
I always can count on it to distract my sweet daughter.

Mrs. Lampshade's Top 15 Awesome Toddler Apps

1. Story Chimes (Free w/ads or $.99 w/o) – Who says iPods are only for games?  Find your child’s favorites like “Cinderella” & “The 3 Pigs.”

2. FirstWords: Deluxe ($4.99) – a bit pricey, but one that my toddler plays with over & over & over & over….

3. StoryBoy – (Free w/ads or $.99 - $1.99 w/o) – “All About Dragons” is a fan favorite in our house.

4. Angry Birds – (Free/Lite or $.99/Full) – Personally, I haven’t invested the $.99 for the full version.  So far the “Lite” has been enough to satiate my toddler’s lust for avian revenge.  My husband, on the other hand…

5. Balloonimals – (Free/Lite or $1.99/Full) – Blow up “balloons” then shake them into shapes.  Interact with balloons then show them who’s boss…POP!  If you have an older generation iPod, this app is less fun since it requires a mic for balloon inflation. 

6. Disney Fairies Fly (Free/Lite or $4.99/Full) – Tinkerbell, her friends & many adventures.  Not sure it would be a hit w/ boys, but my girl thinks it’s “Flitterific!”

7. Elmo’s Monster Maker ($3.99) – Pick hats, eyes, noses & mouths for Elmo’s friends.  Then interact with Elmo – dance, take pictures, be silly.  If you can tolerate the sound of Elmo’s voice (this is a borderline issue for me), it’s worth it.  So far we’ve had this app for two seasons – Winter & Spring.  Updates are pushed that provide new accessories to decorate your monster. 

8. Giraffe’s Preschool Playground ($.99 – currently on sale) – This app is a non-stop player in our house.  Just enough annoying animal sounds that are easily repeated over and over.  A toddler’s dream!

9. Little Dialers (Free!) – Simplistic in execution, Little Dialers teaches your child your phone number.  Truthfully, I haven’t tried it with my toddler yet, but I used it and it helped me learn my overseas cell phone number – for the first time in a year. 

10. Make A Martian($.99) – This app was free when I uploaded it, but I would still pay the $.99 for it.  Choose from a wide array of Martian options to create a “cute” little buddy that’s all your own.  After my toddler’s initial fear subsided, she decided she really liked this app.

11. Talking Rex/Roby the Robot/Tomcat – (Each - Free/Lite or $.99/Full) – These apps also require a mic for interactive play – they will repeat anything that is said.  Fun for kids AND adults who still get kick out of 6th grade humor. 

12. Tozzle (Free/Lite or $1.99/Full) – Multitude of puzzles & number play.  Really well-done app.

13. Waterslide Extreme (Free) – My toddler never fails to school me on this app.  She is the master.  I am the student.

14. Fisher-Price: BIGFOOT the Monster (Free) – A marketing tool from Fisher Price, this free app is one of the best.   You can interact with Bigfoot, work labyrinth-like mazes & watch short videos. 

15. KidsSong Machine by Genera Kids – (Free/Lite or $1.99) – A mixture of traditional children songs and seasonal updates keep kids singing even when they don’t have their iPod in their hands.

Of course this is 15 of thousands - what apps have I forgotten/not heard of/neglected?  

And let's not forget the OtterBox!!! Surely it was invented by parents because this little, rubberized lifesaver is a must-have for iPods.  Seriously. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Snot is Not an Accessory

While I was never a true "fashionista," back in the day I could put together some fairly cute outfits and owned a number of fun, open-toed slides. I could even walk in a fairly high heel without making a fool of myself. Now that I'm a mom, those days are gone, my cute skirts replaced with jeans and my slides with comfortable "mom shoes," perfect for sprinting after a toddler who's pulled a runner in the mall. How did this frumpy person take over? I'm a girly-girl, damn it! This wasn't supposed to happen to me.

Does the ability to breastfeed replace the ability to accessorize? Sara once asked, "Do these shoes go with this spit-up?" which cracked me up, because that's about the extent of my accessorizing these days. At the end of most days I retire my clothes, only to find a big smear of snot or peanut butter streaked across my shirt and am not even fazed by it. Although there was the day I walked around with a "fresh meat" sticker on my butt that Bonnie had peeled off the hamburger package and placed there, I suppose that added a little flair...

Last fall we went to a local farm for some Halloween festivities. As I looked around, I noticed every other mom there was sporting Hunter boots while I was wearing my $13 Costco specials. How did I not get the memo that rain boots had gone designer?! I used to be aware of such things. Even if I couldn't buy them, at least I knew I was supposed to want them. A few weeks ago, I took a look at the assemblage of clothes I'd thrown on and realized I'd worn gray sweats, a gray t-shirt and a gray hoodie - I looked like an inmate, or as Mrs. Lampshade hilariously put it, "the Unimommer."

I see other moms, the ones who've somehow managed to pull off the skinny jeans and tall boots look. How do they do that?! They're accessorized and their wardrobe is current, not four years behind the times as mine is. I nearly became a paraplegic, trying to get a pair of skinny jeans on once. I was hopping all over the dressing room, yanking them up, to no avail, only to have Bonnie scamper out of the stroller and start jumping around saying "Look Mama! I can jump too!" That's when I threw in the towel on that particular trend. I've even found myself thinking the Mom Jean is unfairly maligned. Yes, the pleating's unfortunate but that high waist sure does eliminate the possibility of a muffin top and you're not about to show your panties while sitting on the library floor during story time because your low-rise pants have slid too far down.

I know that in a couple of years my lifestyle will change again and I won't need to be playing all over the floor and sprinting out of stores chasing toddlers who are sick of shopping. Then I'll be able to invest in some cute outfits again. Until then, I just keep a close eye on the moms featured in the Elmo's World videos. I figure that as long as I don't get as bad as them (can someone please hand them a bottle of leave-in conditioner and some tweezers?!), then I'm okay.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Top 10 Signs You're a Toddler's Mama

10. You only know about new music from watching Glee

9. You know what the letter of the day is on Sesame Street

8. You go on more playdates than date nights

7. You can't remember the last time you wore dangly earrings

6. You have either peanut butter, snot, or both smeared on your shirt right now

5. You've changed a diaper in a parking lot in the past month

4. Your chief criteria for a new car purchase is that it must accommodate a double-stroller

3. The only Oscar nominee you saw last year was Toy Story3

2. You now consider making boxed macaroni & cheese on the stove "cooking from scratch" as opposed to just serving EasyMac

1. Every day you experience a love unlike any you ever could have imagined before becoming a mom

We want to hear from you: What would you add to this list?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Explaining the inexplicable

I took my daughters to the grocery store this morning for what was supposed to be a simple, uneventful trip to get milk and mini-bagels. I ended up getting much more than that.

I got my three-year-old, T., out of the car and had her put her hands on the car and wait for me while I got my 15-month-old, M., out of her car seat. (Yes, I make T. put her hands on the car while she waits for me to get the baby out of the car... if it works for criminals, it'll work for toddlers!) Just as I got them both out, M. on my hip, T. holding my hand, a tall, bedraggled-looking, mostly-toothless middle-aged man came storming out of a pickup truck a few spaces away and launched into a salvo of rage and profanity. He ranted to the sky, yelling "G.D. bleeping bleeper blankers!" Only you can replace that with the most profane of all profanity, all of George Carlin's 7 forbidden words. "Fantastic," I thought, my adrenaline pumping while I figured out whether or not this guy was a threat. I carried M. and dragged a fascinated, riveted T. toward the store as fast as I could, wanting to get away from him.

As he walked several feet behind us, he continued to rant, yelling loud enough for the entire parking lot to hear. "The second you turn around, they'll BLEEP you right in the BLANK!!"

At that point, T. stopped and pointed at him, saying, "Mommy, that dude is really mad!" This snapped him out of his fit of rage and he looked at her, then at the baby, then at me and said, "Oh, no. I'm sorry. I didn't know there were babies around."

"Right, dude," I thought, "there are never babies at a grocery store." He continued, "I just got fired. I'm sorry, little baby. I tip my hat to you." He took off his hat, exposing his bald dome and messy red hair. As I continued to hurriedly usher my kids toward the store, I replied, "Thank you, sir, that's understandable." Before we got to the door, he looked at T. once again and apologized, "I'm sorry, little baby. I didn't mean for you to hear that. That hurts my heart."

Finally, we reached the store and scurried off to get a cart while he, thankfully, headed in the opposite direction. T. was truly frightened by the whole thing and insisted that I carry her on my hip while I pushed the baby in the cart. As we moved through the store getting our milk and mini-bagels, she kept repeating, "That dude was really mad." My body was still purging adrenaline, so all I could say was, "Yes, he was, honey."

As we got to the checkout I looked around to make sure he was gone, and he was. We paid for our stuff and went back to the car. Once we got in, I was calm enough to try to explain what had happened to T.

I said, "Honey, do you remember that episode of "Ni Hao, Kai Lan" where Hoho was really mad, but he didn't talk about his feelings, so he threw a fit? That's what that guy was doing. He was throwing a tantrum instead of using his words. Well, uh... he was using words, just totally the wrong ones. He should have calmed down and talked about his feelings instead of throwing a big tantrum. That's not an appropriate way for adults to behave."

T., seeming to understand, said, "Yeah. He went back home to his angry-house... with his new friends!" That really impressed me, that she hoped he had some new friends to talk to at his "angry-house." She's a sweet, tender-hearted child, and I was glad that this guy's fit of parking lot rage hadn't affected that.

Before we left the store, while I was struggling for a way to explain this grown man's tantrum, I went through several possible things to say. I thought of telling T. that the man was mentally ill, but then I didn't want her to think that's what all mental illness looks like or that all mentally ill people behave that way. As I juggled the pros and cons of the various explanations a three-year-old could understand, I was grateful that I'd seen that episode of "Ni Hao, Kai Lan" and could relate it to that.

How do you explain inexplicable adult behavior to your kids?
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