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Go Take A Nap

29 Mar

Yesterday I walked with Daisy in the carrier for about two hours. When we got home at 5pm, my back and legs were hurting, so I took two Advil and lay down for a few minutes. And then I woke up and it was 10pm. My kind husband took care of the baby’s bedtime routine and put her to bed and let me sleep. So I got ready for bed and went back to sleep, and then woke up at 8 this morning. That is 15 hours of sleep. Granted, I had to get up at midnight and 3 to feed and change the baby, like usual. But I haven’t slept like that in quite a while. It feels glorious.

I have two problems when it comes to sleep. First, when the baby is in bed (around 7), I feel like I have to make the very most of my baby-free time. And I stretch it until 11 or midnight. And with two or three night feedings, the next morning comes around way too quickly. Second, after I’ve fed and changed the baby, she goes back to sleep right away, but I lie in bed wide awake and waiting for her to need me again.

It is hard for me to frame “go get some rest” in a way that puts the focus on Daisy and not myself. The closest I can get to it is “I am a better mother when I am well rested.” That is so, so true. Because I am better at everything when I’m not dragging with fatigue. One early bedtime does not mean that I’ve paid off my sleep debt, however, so I’m going to try to head upstairs at 8:30 every night. Even though that means only an hour and a half of baby-free relaxation.


Passing The Time

28 Mar

Daisy is a very independent little girl, but she likes to have me in the same room with her while she plays. I’m not allowed to knit or read because she is very curious about yarn and books and wants to taste them, tangle the yarn, and tear the pages. It can get a little dull after several hours of sitting on the floor watching my little girl bang blocks together and crawl. One of the best ways I’ve found to relieve the tedium is to listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

Here are some of my favorite podcasts:

This American Life is a public radio show that is also distributed as a podcast. Each week brings a new episode, and every episode has a different theme. The one-hour episode usually consists of several stories relating to the theme. There have been a couple of episodes where I would have been upset if an older child had been listening to it with me – the one that comes to mind is a story where a couple have a “relationship rumspringa” and compete to have more sexual partners than the other in the space of a month. So caveat listener.

The Freakonomics Podcast is another public radio show that is also distributed as a podcast. These are also released weekly, and are also about an hour long. The Freakonomics radio show started with the book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything – a New York Times best-seller authored by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Levitt is an economist fascinated by the riddles of every day life, and Dubner is an author and journalist. The podcast follows in much the same vein as the book and usually is quite entertaining.

At The Intersection of East and West is a podcast distributed by Ancient Faith Radio. It’s a recording of a Christian (or Eastern) Orthodox Church sunday school class for people curious about Orthodox Christianity, and it’s taught by Deacon Michael Hyatt. Hyatt is the chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, so he understands where enquiring Protestants are coming from. It’s a fascinating look at the history, philosophies, and teachings of the Orthodox Church, and he sometimes provides contrasts with the Roman Catholic Church and major Protestant denominations. For anyone curious about the Orthodox Church, this is a fantastic, scholarly resource.

As for audiobooks, I am currently listening to a series of books by Laurie R. King that starts with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. These novels feature Mary Russell, a brilliant young woman born in 1900, who at first is an apprentice to Sherlock Holmes before marrying him when she is 21 and he is in his sixties. It sounds crazier than it actually is, trust me. If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes stories, then you will love the Mary Russell novels. All the wonderful, long-beloved characters are there, plus new characters that are simply delicious. I have just finished A Monstrous Regiment of Women and have just started A Letter of Mary, which are the second and third books in the series, respectively.

Another wonderful series are the Maisie Dobbs books, written by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs is another brilliant woman, born into a housemaid’s life before being discovered by her employer reading classical literature in the library at three in the morning. Rather than sacking her, the liberal-minded matron gets her a proper education and apprentices her to a detective. (Sound familiar?) These books provide incredible color and detail about life during and after World War I. If you like Downton Abbey, then you will love Maisie Dobbs.

Review: Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina

26 Mar

Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina is one of the best parenting books I’ve read. Not only does it give great advice and explain the science behind that advice, but it is enjoyable to read as well. So many parenting books have a dogmatic tone – “do it MY way or your child will be sad, friendless, stupid, anti-social, fat, etc.” and their advice is backed up only by the author’s view of how the world works and some anecdotes. The information in Brain Rules for Baby has both been published in academic literature and also reproduced. And because Medina is a true scientist, in his introduction he makes clear that:

  • Scientists don’t know everything, and the name of the game is to maximize your chances at raising smart & happy children. (That is, there are no guarantees!)
  • “Every kid is different”
  • “Every parent is different”
  • Children are strongly influenced by their peers
  • Most data shows association (links) rather than causes

I find this honesty very refreshing because not many parenting books speak these truths.

Brain Rules for Baby has five chapters: Pregnancy, Relationship, Smart Baby, Happy Baby, and Moral Baby. Each of those chapters is divided into Seeds (“nature”) and Soil (“nurture”). At the end of the book is a sixth chapter called Practical Tips that is a great summary of those five chapters.

Smart Baby was my favorite chapter because it confronted several parenting myths head on and was very practical. One of the myths that Medina demolishes is that “helicopter parenting” or “hyper-parenting” is good for children. Some ways that hyper-parenting is harmful:

  • extreme expectations stunt higher-level thinking
  • pressure can extinguish curiosity
  • continual anger or disappointment becomes toxic stress

This makes me feel much better about my gut reaction to avoid the academic extracurriculars, and instead, let Daisy have vast amounts of imaginative play and pursue her own interests. However, in the Happy Baby chapter, Medina reveals that the one helicopter parent favorite – starting music lessons at a young age (before 7) – is excellent for training children to hear the subtleties of emotional speech.

My least favorite chapter was the Pregnancy chapter because, first, I am no longer pregnant, and second, I found much of the advice to be pretty common-sense or well-covered in other books.

If you are looking for a parenting book that is a pleasure to read and also helpful, give Brain Rules for Baby a try. The material is fascinating and the presentation is deft.

Daisy Models Her New Sweater

25 Mar

I am really happy with how this sweater turned out.

Daisy models her new sweater. Adorable!

From the look on her face, so is Daisy.

(This is the Dewey Cabled Pullover from Vintage Baby Knits by Kristen Rengren, knitted in Touch Yarns 4 Ply Merino.)

What I’ve Learned Using Cloth Diapers

23 Mar

I’ve imparted most of the lessons I’ve learned over the last eight months of cloth diapering in the previous posts. But there are a few things I didn’t cover.

Cloth diapers leak a lot less than disposable diapers.

I touched on this a little bit in the post where I compared cloth diapers and disposable diapers. Not only is the elastic in cloth diaper covers a lot stronger than the elastic in disposable diapers, the attachment tabs are stronger as well. I have had the tabs come open on very full overnight disposable diapers diapers. And that will cause leaks as well. Whenever I have friends who are going on a long drive with a new baby, I tell them to get cloth diaper covers or reusable swim diapers to cover their disposable diapers. I have had this little trick save the day multiple times. But the most memorable is when I put Daisy in a disposable, covered with a diaper cover, before her baptism. She had a blowout, but didn’t get anything on her baptism gown because the diaper cover kept it in.

It is very important to fully pre-wash your diapers

Most types of new cloth diapers will include instructions to run them through a hot wash and then dry them about six times before using them on the baby. This prep work washes away natural plant oils, and oils and sizing (starch) used in fabric manufacturing. To check if the diapers are ready to be used, sprinkle a couple of drops of water on a dry diaper. If the water is instantly absorbed, then the diaper is ready. If the water beads before absorbing, it needs to be washed and dried some more. Skipping this step will lead to leaky diapers!

Water is a good cleaner

When I change wet diapers, I use plain water in a spray bottle and a cloth. The baby gets clean without the expense and potential irritation of cleansers or scents. For dirty diapers, I use California Baby Diaper Area Wash because water doesn’t get everything off.

Mix and match to find a system that works for you

I use disposables when we leave the house and for overnight. I don’t like carrying a wet bag around for dirty diapers because I am terrible about remembering to put it in the diaper pail when we get home. And I’ve tried several different cloth diaper solutions for overnights, but the special overnight disposable diapers have worked the best at keeping Daisy dry. They don’t work perfectly – one night the diaper got so full that the closure tab let go. All in all, we’ve bought less than 300 disposable diapers in the last 8 months. (For comparison, if we were using disposables full time, we would have bought over 2,000 disposable diapers by this point.) Even though we are using some disposables, we are still saving a significant amount of money on diapering costs.

Consider reusable “cloth” swim diapers

Even if you decide to use disposable diapers full time, consider getting a cloth swim diaper for under your baby’s swim suit. Swim diapers are designed to hold in poop and keep it out of the pool. They are not absorbent, or they would soak up the pool water. I have used both the Bummis Swimmi and Imse Vimse Swim Diaper and really liked both of them.

This is part five in a five part series.

Giving Cloth Diapers A Try

22 Mar

If you think you’d like to try out cloth diapers, just to see if they might be for you, there are several great options that are pretty inexpensive. You can get a mini kit, use a trial program, or buy used diapers.

I started with the Green Mountain Diapers Newborn Mini Kit.  I would recommend adding a second package of wipes, a pail liner, a Snappi, and a spray bottle to the order. We started using the cloth diapers after the baby’s umbilical cord fell off, and it was a great success. The only downside is that the mini kit only comes in newborn size, so if you have an older baby, you would have to order the pieces individually and not as part of a kit.

Jillian’s Drawers has a offer to try cloth diapers for $10. I have not tried this myself, but it looks like a nice way to try the most popular diapering systems for a very reasonable price. Also, the diapers you get are brand new and not previously used.

Finally, you can buy second-hand diapers from Diaper Swappers, Craigslist, or at for-sale-or-trade event at your local chapter of the Real Diaper Association. There is nothing unsanitary about using second-hand cloth diapers, because cloth diapers are designed to be used over and over.

This is part four in a five part series.

Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable Diapers

21 Mar

The point of this post is not to demonstrate that one type of diaper is better than the other, but to review the differences between them.

Blowouts of cloth diapers are rare, blowouts of disposable diapers are common

The elastic used in cloth diaper covers is stronger than the elastic used in disposables because it doesn’t make economic sense to put heavy elastic in a single-use product. The result of this is more leaks, particularly of the notoriously runny breast-milk fed baby poo. Many mothers have told me about poop “up the back and into the hair,” but I never experienced this with cloth diapers.

It is more convenient to deal with dirty disposable diapers than dirty cloth diapers when away from home

When mother & baby are out of the house and baby has a dirty disposable diaper, all mom has to do when the diaper is changed is throw the dirty diaper away. A dirty cloth diaper goes in a wet bag (a smaller, zippered version of a pail liner) and back in the diaper bag. When mother & baby arrive home, mom has to remember to get the wet bag out of the diaper bag and add it to the diaper laundry.

Cloth diapers are more environmentally friendly than disposable diapers

Disposable diapers go in the landfill after one use, cloth diapers are used until they are worn out, and then used as household rags, before they go in the landfill. The water, electricity, and detergent used to wash cloth diapers do have an environmental impact, however. There are compostable diapers, but due to health concerns, they can only be composted in special facilities that are pretty rare.

Cloth diapers give baby a big diaper butt, while disposable diapers are trimmer

Some brands of clothing are more roomy in the bottom, and thus more cloth-diaper friendly. However, most baby clothing is made with the assumption that the baby will be wearing a disposable diaper. The trick to this is to buy pants one size larger than the baby is currently wearing, and to roll the cuffs.

Cloth diapers are cheaper in the long run, but there is a significant up front cost.

The people at Diaper Decisions have come up with a great comparison of the costs of various types of cloth diapers here. The most expensive cloth diapering option is (sized) Knickernappies Pocket Diapers, with an estimated grand total of $1677.66, or $0.23 per change. The closest approximation to the system I use is fitted diapers with covers, which totals at $1262.84, or $0.18 per change. The cost for disposable diapers has an estimated grand total of $2577.35, or $0.36 per change. And if the cloth diapers are used for multiple children, the cost per change will go down even further.

Both cloth and disposable diapers are work, just different kinds of work

The work associated with cloth diapers is keeping up with the diaper laundry every three days (or so), and ordering new if the family is using sized cloth diapers and the baby is starting to outgrow the current size. Diaper laundry involves carrying the laundry bag to the washer, then soaking, washing, and drying the diapers, unloading the dryer, sorting and stacking the diapers, and putting them away. The work associated with disposable diapers is either purchasing them at regular intervals through the grocery store or a delivery service like Amazon and taking out the trash. Different things appeal to (or repel) different people. I like doing laundry, and I don’t like going to the store, so the work involved with cloth diapers meshes with my personality.

This is part three in a five part series.