Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Purposeful Conception on Offbeat Mama

Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy is currently being advertised on Offbeat Mama!

I'm super-excited about the January course, which will be the last one before our baby arrives (crazy!). It will be such a good time for reflecting and setting intentions. It will definitely help keep me motivated to maintain the healthy habits I started during the pre-conception phase.

If you have any questions about it, feel free to e-mail me!

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Update on Holiday Traditions

My resolution to be more festive and create new traditions this year has been both good and bad. I'll start with the bad: it's been a little stressful to try to fit a holiday activity into every evening.

On most nights, Matt gets home at 6:30. By the time we cook, eat, and clean up, it's usually around 8. That gives us approximately 1.5 hours before our ideal bed time (we have to wake up at 5:30 every morning). Matt has to write a blog post every night, and we also like to do things like watch movies, read to "Coconut," putz around on our computers, play with Hoss, etc. We've also had added responsibilities related to the baby, such as appointments with our midwife and projects related to getting the room ready.

Despite those challenges, we did manage to accomplish 17 out of our 25 activities (definitely by doubling up on some nights and skipping others). I enjoyed writing love letters, making stamps, going around the neighborhood to look at lights, eating dinner under the Christmas tree, dancing to Christmas music (although the music wasn't exactly Christmas-related), and making baked goods for colleagues and friends (except that I had my first pregnancy sugar-binge and felt like crap afterward).

We also simplified some of the activities. For instance, instead of getting really creative with our wrapping, we just did some basic yarn with a simple tag (using the stamp I carved).

I look forward to revising the traditions for next year and adding new ones to fit our expanding family!

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on January 2. Register today!

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Cooking with Friends

Last weekend, we had friends over for pancakes, and it reminded me how much I love cooking with friends. Instead of stressing about preparing everything in advance, I simply set up different cooking stations with everything our friends would need to help us prepare. Very Montessori! (Hoss, of course, set us his own station on our bed. That boy loves the sun.)

For example, my friend was bringing the pancake recipe, so I put out all the ingredients that she requested in advance, as well as the measuring cups, etc. Then I set up another station for making fresh-squeezed orange juice. While our friends got busy at their stations, Matt and I set up the table with an electric griddle, so everyone could sit around making their own pancakes while we chatted.

It worked perfectly! Setting out ingredients is a lot less stressful than getting everything prepared and making the kitchen presentable before guests arrive. And honestly, I think people enjoy things more when they contribute to the process (as long as it's not an arduous and frustrating process when you're trying to enjoy yourself!).

It reminded me that I want our next house to have a giant kitchen with a gargantuan island facing out to the dining room table and the living room. I want to invite people over, toss them aprons, dole out jobs, and stand around chopping, cooking, and chatting together. That would be the life!

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on January 2. Register today!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

DVD Review: Laugh and Learn About Breast Feeding

Recently, I've commandeered our Netflix queue and have been moving a bunch of baby-related films to the top. Last week, we watched Orgasmic Birth (which I recommend for positive images of birthing, even though it has a general aura of hokeyness to it), and then I watched Laugh and Learn About Breast Feeding.

Initially, I wasn't going to put the movie into my queue because of the cover, but the description sounded useful. I'm so glad I did! It was like taking a real breast feeding course for free (I even practiced along by using a sock monkey as my pretend baby).

I'm convinced that each of us needs to prepare for the birth of our children in whatever way builds our confidence and our excitement. For me, I very much enjoy learning as much as I can from books and movies. Of course I will learn so much more by actually going through the experience, but getting a baseline of information helps me feel more ready as I head into parenthood (even when different sources contradict each other). Honestly, I think confidence is half the battle, so whatever we each need to do to build our confidence, we should do it!

I'll include the notes I took from the video below, in case they're helpful:

  • Use a small pillow for back support.
  • If baby is swaddled, unwrap him/her first. Swaddling signals sleep.
  • It's easier to start with regular bed pillows rather than specialized nursing pillows when your stomach is still large and you need to get the baby close.
  • Cross-Cradle Position: Right hand holds the baby's neck (as if you were holding the baby out it front of you by the neck). Baby's mouth goes to left breast. Left hand also goes to breast.
  • Nose and chin should be right up against the breast. If the nose and chin are not right up against the breast, the baby is too far away and it will cause problems. Don't worry about the baby being able to breathe (that's why they have "pug noses"!).
  • Football Position: Still need a pillow behind you to push you far enough forward that the baby has room for its feet. Second pillow goes on the side (regular bed pillow are your friend when it comes to breastfeeding!). Left hand supports the baby's neck (same as first position) and you bring the baby to the left breast. This position is particularly good post-c-section. Also, this position can be modified for babies that have reflux. Instead of coming at the breast around the side, they can come around and then sit up so that they latch onto the breast with their head in an upright position.
  • Sideline Position: Right arm cradles baby as s/he sucks at the right breast and lies on the bed.
  • Put finger in mouth and pull jaw down to de-latch a baby (when a baby is latched on, it feels like a "vacuum cleaner").
  • A baby should be finished burping in 2-3 minutes. To burp them, cover your hand/arm with a burp cloth and use that hand to hold them at the jaw line (with the baby sitting on your lap). Use the other hand to pat and rub the baby loud enough so your partner can hear it across the room. Other strategy is to hold the baby up high on the shoulder (which puts pressure on the gas in the stomach).
  • Nurse every 2-3 hours from start to start; 10-15 minutes per side.
  • Day One = 1 poop, 1 pee
  • Day Two = 2 poops, 2 pees
  • Day Three = 3 poops, 3 pees
  • Once milk starts to come in, the guideline is 6 pees and 3 poops.
  • If the baby is extra sleepy in the first 24-48 hours and you need to wake it, you can hold it under the arms and move it from side to side like a pendulum. To keep a baby awake while breast-feeding, you can nudge it under the chin.
  • Consider putting one pinky-sized portion of Lansolin on each nipple once a day to prevent dryness. Also, try to give your breasts as much air and light as possible. You can also cope with sore nipples by soaking them in bowls of salt water or putting tea bags on them. Expect sore nipples for about two weeks.
  • Coping with Engorgement: 15 minutes of warm-wet (washcloths, shower, etc.), 15 minutes of nursing on each side, and 15 minutes of ice pack (or a frozen green cabbage leaf). Engorgement last for about 48-hours.
  • Most women need to eat about 3,000 calories a day.
  • Pump right after a feeding (pump the first three feedings to make enough for a partner to feed the baby at night).
  • In the fridge = 5-7 days
  • In the freezer = 3-6 months
  • Best time to by a bra is in the 36th or 37th week of pregnancy.

Also, in case you're interested, here's the link to all my notes: Basic Infant Care.

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on January 2. Register today!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

iPod Applications?

Refrigerator magnets

I realize that I've already said goodbye and signed off for the year, but I have too many post ideas piling up. I need to express some of them before I bring engorgement upon myself (can you tell I've been learning more about breast feeding today?).

Really, this post isn't so much an idea as much as it is a request. You see, I have an iPhone, but I am terrible about using technology to its fullest capabilities. As I thought about using Microsoft Word to create a tracking sheet for our baby's eating/peeing/pooping/etc., I remembered that someone around these parts has already mentioned there's an app for that.

So, please, tell me what I'm missing! What apps do you find helpful for new parenthood? What about life in general?

Please share your wisdom!

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on January 2. Register today!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays & A Happy New Year!

My vacation has officially started! I have lots to get done before the holidays, most of which relates to finalizing the baby's room (I promise a photo tour will be forthcoming!) and getting the binder together that will have all the information people need to best help out around the house once the baby is born.

I'll also be setting aside some time for reflection. At the end of every year, I like to look back and celebrate what I'm proud of, think about what I wish I would have done differently, and set my intentions for the year new. I use this form to guide my process, and then I make a visual collage to represent the year. I know I've mentioned it before, and I don't mean to sound redundant. I just wanted to close this season with a nod to introspection and mindfulness.

Wishing you community, connection, warmth, love, and fun this holiday. Happy New Year! I'll see you in 2011!

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Co-Sleeping Options

I'm getting pretty tired of figuring out all the products we need to be prepared for the arrival of our baby. I'm definitely not buying into the hype of the Baby Industrial Complex (I haven't even stepped foot in a Babies 'R Us), but there's still a lot of stuff to get.

By far, my biggest dilemma is figuring out the co-sleeping situation. We want to co-sleep with our baby initially to promote attachment and make it easier on me to breastfeed in the middle of the night. Although I have no concrete way of predicting how long we'll co-sleep (it totally depends on our baby and how the situation is going), I'm currently thinking somewhere in the three-month range (but I'm really just pulling that number out of my butt). I'll keep you updated.

So, here's the dilemma:
  1. We have a queen-sized bed. Matt and I already jockey for space in our bed. There is no way we are fitting another living being in it (we don't let Hoss sleep with us either). Since we can't even consider this option, we don't even need to think through all the safety considerations related to the firmness of our mattress, blankets, etc.
  2. That means the baby needs to sleep next to the bed. Since Matt and I have an IKEA Malm bed, we sleep very low to the ground. This means an option like the pack-n-play (which is a an inexpensive, co-sleeping option for the side of the bed) will not work well for us. It would tower over our bed and require more work than I want to reach in and retrieve the baby in the middle of the night. I want to be able to reach over and touch the baby throughout the night.
  3. The Arm's Reach co-sleeper does have a "universal" option that adjusts to line up with platform-style beds, but it is approximately $240. That's way too much to spend for something that we might not use very long.
  4. I've heard about the option of renting a co-sleeper, but I haven't heard of any options in Houston. This option might be worth pursuing; it will just take more annoying work (like I said, I'm getting tired of thinking about all the products!).
  5. The space between my side of the bed and the closet is tight. If we get anything too bulky, it will make it difficult to navigate around our room.

So here's what I'm currently considering: Buying a thick mini-crib mattress (I found one that is about 6" high), lining it up next to our bed, and then buying something like this to put on top of the mattress (and put the baby in).

So what do you think? Please help me evaluate my current option, and suggest other ideas!

Looking forward to hearing from you...

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Living Christmas Tree

This year Matt and I opted for a living Christmas tree. I found a local farm a little out of the city that sells them. However, we were out of town the first two weekends in December and couldn't make the long trip, so we decided to get one from Home Depot for $50 instead.

I was hesitant to get a living tree because I thought they would only come in small sizes, but our tree is seriously about six feet tall. I also worried that the pot would look ugly, but I simply bought 2.5 yards of fabric from IKEA and wrapped it around the bottom (no sewing required!). It will look even better once it's covered in presents. We even managed to transport the tree home in Matt's Prius by simply bending to top of the tree to the side (it's really flexible).

Once we got the tree home, we set it on a large trash bag to protect our floors from daily watering. We also used a second trash bag plus some tape to make a little tray to hold any excess water.

I also worried about where the heck to plant the tree after Christmas. I talked to a friend about it, and he suggested that I ask the principal at my school. So I did, and she agreed. Woo-hoo!

I also worried that having a live Christmas tree would worsen Matt's allergies, but he hasn't complained!

I imagine that we will start a tradition of buying a living tree and then planting it in the new year. Maybe we'll stand around it and recite our intentions for the new year. Hmmm...

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bowling Baby Shower

Matt and I are trying to accomplish as much as possible before the Christmas holiday. When we get back in January, I'll be 34 weeks pregnant (out of 40). Since many babies are known to arrive up to two weeks early, it makes sense for us to be prepared as early as possible. Also, I'm nervous about taking childbirth classes twice a week for two hours a night for three weeks. Eek!

Since our evenings are already so packed, we try to get as much done as possible on the weekends (and still relax and have fun!). This weekend, I made a new slipcover for the ottoman in the baby's room, wrote lots of thank you cards, made a trip to IKEA and Home Depot for more nursery stuff, and ordered the invitations for our Bowling Baby Shower.

Matt and I decided that we wanted to have a party to celebrate the imminent arrival of our little chap, but we didn't want to saddle our friends with the burden of hosting something. So we opted to just go bowling instead! We had a free postcard deal from Vistaprint, so we decided to make a color invitation. We used some pregnancy paint that a friend of mine gave us to paint my belly like a hot pink bowling ball and then headed into the backyard (with one of our neighbors) for a photo shoot. We had a ball (pun intended)!

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Registration Is Now Open!

I'm very excited to announce that registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy online course, which begins January 2 and runs through February 4. This course will be the last one before our baby arrives (crazy!).

I'm particularly excited about this January course because it's the start of a new year (a new decade, for that matter!), which, for me, always represents a fresh start, an ideal time for introspection, and a renewed opportunity for self-growth.

As I get closer and closer to my due date, I feel even more thankful for the time I spent preparing my mind, body, and life for pregnancy. Although there is so much that is out of our control when it comes to conception, pregnancy, birth (and parenthood, for that matter!), there's a lot we can do to lay a solid foundation and create a nurturing and welcoming environment. Transitioning into parenthood is a big, huge life event that is worthy of intention, thought, and preparation. The average couple spends months and months preparing for a wedding. It makes sense to spend an equal amount of time (or longer!) preparing for children.

Here's some of the positive feedback the past two course have received:

  • "To be honest, I was hesitant at first to spend the money on a class about preparing for conception (rather than saving it towards actually having a baby!). However, both my husband and I have benefited SO much from this; it's been worth EVERY penny and more. Truly. It's been fantastic and I'm so glad I 'splurged.'"
  • "This was an excellent course and a lot of thought, research, hard work, and love went into it - that is obvious. It was comforting to find a community of others who are really taking the time to plan for conception and parenthood, because I don't find that among my local community. Great job, Sara. Really and truly. This course was a big help to me and I will definitely recommend it to others!"
  • "Thanks to all the reflection, guided discussions, and useful advice from this course, [my] worry/fear has pretty much disappeared. My partner and I have figured out what 'ready' means to us, and it's not as hard as we thought it would be to get there. We have a short to-do list with achievable goals. I'm happy to be where I am right now in my life."
  • "I was very ambivalent about having a child before taking this course. I now know that my husband and I are more prepared than I thought we were to have a child. For the areas in which we need some work, I now have concrete action steps to complete...It's wonderful to actually be excited about this next step instead of fearful or unsure."
  • "I have a long way to go, but I want to work on myself before having a baby. This course has helped me identify concrete areas that need work."

The Nitty, Gritty Details

  • An online course and community focused on preparing our minds, bodies, and lives for pregnancy
  • January 2-February 4
  • $99 USD

Here's the more detailed version:

Are you thinking about getting pregnant or are you already actively trying? Welcome to Purposeful Conception! This course is for all of us.

The idea is simple: bringing a baby into the world is both an overwhelming joy and a life-changing commitment. When we approach conception with intention and purpose, we create a welcoming and prepared space for children in our lives.

This online course will help us position our minds, bodies, and lives for pregnancy. Over the course of five weeks, a new lesson will be uploaded each weekday. The lessons will address a whole host of topics, such as preparing your body through solid nutrition and exercise, finding balance between what you can and cannot control, making space in your life for pregnancy, deciding whether to track your cycle, building a solid partnership as a foundation for your future family, and much, much more. As a participant in the course, you'll receive information, tips, reflection exercises and prompts, access to interviews, and a community of like-minded kindred spirits who are on a journey similar to your own.

Interested in learning more? Visit the Course Overview or About the Author. Spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis and will be limited to the first 100 participants, so Register Now! The total cost is $99 USD. Happy Conceiving!


Please consider spreading the word by sharing this post via the buttons at the bottom of the post or by reposting the information on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thank you so, so much!

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

On the Reading Docket

I'm so excited about the books I picked up at my local library (requested through inter-library loan):

  1. Diaper Free: I'm eager to learn all about elimination communication (although I have to confess that I just read random sentences out of the book, and the author seems very radical--think unassisted home births).
  2. Montessori from the Start: This book seems a little dense but also full of useful information as I try to figure out how to transfer my Montessori knowledge from 6-9 year-olds to infants.
  3. How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way: Even just flipping through the pictures excites me!
  4. Body, Soul, and Baby: I read this book during my preconception days, and I loved it. I ordered it again so I could refresh my memory about the pregnancy stuff.

I also went to a recent book sale at the public library and picked up a copy of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman.

Of course, I really need to be reading about birth right now!

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Tentative Post-Baby Daily Rhythm

Lists, lists, lists!

For those of you who get really irritated with my passion for planning (or those of you who think I'm spiraling into delusion and disappointment by planning things that can't possibly be planned), be forewarned that you might not want to read this post. Who needs to elevate their own stress levels by subjecting themselves to something that is really, really going to bother them? Seriously, why not close this site and go check out something more lighthearted?

For the rest of you, I'm going to share some of my thinking about what my life might be like when I'm on maternity leave.

First, I must state for the record that I absolutely hear and believe people when they say, "Be prepared to get nothing done. There are days when showering is just too much of a stretch."

I am preparing for the adjustment to life with a newborn as much as I possibly can. I'm asking my mom and bonus mom (i.e., my mother-in-law) to come and stay with us at separate times after the birth to help take care of the house, cook, do laundry, walk the dog, etc. Once they go, I'm going to ask friends to deliver meals, mow our lawn, and do our grocery shopping for several more weeks. I've also been talking with Matt about how important it is for him to take paternity leave (for all of us!). I'm setting myself up to have zero obligations (I'm writing posts in advance for this blog, and I've asked guest posters to cover 2000 Dollar Wedding for at least five weeks). I won't run another Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy for a while.

Even with all those supports in place, I know it will still be hard. Plus, we may struggle with things that we can't even anticipate right now (e.g., medical difficulties, colic, other unexpected life-changing events in our family, etc.).

With that said, I still need to think through what kind of life I want to live when I'm home alone with a baby. Personally, I'm much more productive, intentional, and happy if I plan such things in advance (or at least jot some things down on a brainstorming list). I absolutely acknowledge that this list may fall completely by the wayside, but I'll still be glad I created it because it gives me immense reassurance right now. I am very much looking forward to life with a new baby (which is a great place to be as we head into the final months before the birth).

So, enough of that rambling preamble. Here is my current list of what kind of daily routine I might want to have, once things have settled down a bit in our household:
  • Stay in bed until I have slept 8 hours (I got this idea out of a book; basically, I wake up and feed the baby all night long and into the morning, but I don't actually get up and out of bed in the morning until I have slept a total of 8 hours, no matter how long that takes!)
  • Shower
  • Practice Spanish while breastfeeding (using these CDs)
  • Write one blog post while the baby naps
  • Take the baby for a walk in the Moby wrap or Ergo carrier with a neighbor of mine (hooray for adult conversation!)
  • Give the baby a massage
  • Spend time out in nature with the baby
  • Give the baby tummy time and lie-on-your-back-and-stare-at-mobiles time
  • Read the baby a story
  • Read my own books while breastfeeding
  • Do laundry, tidy up the house, and talk on the phone while wearing the baby, if possible
  • Nap (during one of the baby's naps)
  • Go on occasional outings to visit friends, browse antique stores, tutor my children at school
  • Try to fit in some of my own work, either while the baby is napping or while the baby is entertaining himself with mobiles
  • Spend quality time with Matt

I'll keep you updated about how it goes!

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Antique Store Finds

I am so in love with my local antique shop. So-in-love.

I was able to walk in and find exactly the two things I needed, as well as two things I really wanted.

For the two essential items: I found the exact container I wanted for my portable breastfeeding station. It looks perfect, and it even fits my 40-ounce water bottle. It's a little on the heavy side, but I can deal with it. I also found the exact little kind of wooden drawer I wanted to use as a shelf above my desk. It will hold my new tape dispenser, as well as a few other desky items.

I also found an amazing card catalog that I couldn't resist. I mean, the overarching theme for our home is old school house, so it made perfect sense. It will be a helpful place to store more office supplies.

Finally, I found a yellow frame that I really adore for some reason. Once I got it home, I realized that it holds 8.5 x 11 paper, which gave me an idea. I framed the most recent letter I wrote to Coconut. Every time I write him a new letter, I'll take out the old one and put it in his scrapbook. I'm excited!

Are you ready for the grand total for my four items? $50.


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Monday, December 6, 2010

Montessori Floor Bed

Matt and I have definitely decided to go the Montessori floor bed route rather than get a crib because the idea resonates with us for a couple different reasons:
  1. We're eager to help our child develop independence, and a floor bed is designed to do just that. The entire room is designed to be as safe as a crib would be (it's usually closed off from the rest of the house with a secure gate). That way, when the child wakes up, s/he can simply start playing in his/her room.
  2. Buying a mattress rather than a crib + a mattress helps us save money and is better for the environment because we're using less stuff.

The challenge is going to be figuring out what size mattress to start with, so that we minimize the number of mattresses we need to get through the years. Because our house is so small right now, we can't get anything bigger than a crib-sized mattress. With the sleeper sofa in the baby's room, a crib-sized mattress will just barely fit (and that's because we are using a tiny desk in that room). We could go with an even smaller portable crib mattress, but once we do move into a larger house, we would need to buy a new mattress.

So it probably makes sense to go with a regular sized crib mattress right now and then upgrade to a bed-sized mattress when our child is old enough to get out of bed and walk (instead of rolling). At that point, we could make the switch to a low platform bed and use that for years.

The next question is whether we opt for an eco-friendly mattress or an IKEA mattress. The former costs hundreds of dollars, while the latter starts at $35. Of course, it's inaccurate to just compare price tags. If the IKEA mattress is made with materials that cause cancer or lead to other health risks, then its "cost" is actually much, much more.

I hate having to make such trade-offs!

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Portable Breastfeeding Station

My dear friend, Carolyn, explained to me the importance of having water bottles on hand to rehydrate oneself, as well as snacks, books, etc. to make breastfeeding more comfortable and to fit in some self-care. When I first heard from mothers that breastfeeding happens all over the house, I thought about setting up "breastfeeding stations" in a couple different rooms.

Although I love the idea in theory, once I started thinking about what it would mean to put a breastfeeding station in the baby's room, the living room, and our bedroom, I started to like the idea less and less. The main problem is that our house is tiny (like 900 or 1,000 square feet). It can look cluttered very quickly. One of my goals as I move into parenthood is to not let our house get overrun with baby stuff.

That's when the idea hit me: a portable breastfeeding station! I know exactly the contraption I need to buy from my local antique store. It's a wooden box/tray with a single handle coming out the top. It looks like something a carpenter might have used. The single handle will allow me to hold the baby, grab the breastfeeding station, and go wherever we want to breastfeed.

Here's what I'm thinking I will put into the portable breastfeeding station:
  • iPod (we're going to have a docking station in the baby's room and we already have one in the living room)
  • Magazines
  • Books
  • Journal (if I absolutely have to jot down something that I read)
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Burp cloths
  • Clipboard with paper and pen for tracking feedings/poopings/etc.

I think all of that will fit into the contraption I'm thinking of. I'll have to see. If not, I'm sure I can find a basket that will do the trick.

In the meantime, can you think of anything else that I might want to have by my side when I'm breastfeeding (aside from a breastfeeding pillow, extra pillows, and the baby?). Thanks for your suggestions!

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December: Reflection & Rejuvenation

From the Nikki McClure Calendar

Wow. We are officially heading into the last month of 2010. I think this marks the end of a decade. It's strange to me how I can compartmentalize so much of my life chapters according to the decades. The '80s were my childhood. The '90s were high school and college. The '00s started with my career, took me on a self-subsidized sabbatical, and connected me with my life partner. And now the next decade marks the beginning of my journey as a parent and the wholehearted pursuit of some of my bigger dreams related to building community and revolutionizing education.

Okay, I won't go too deeply down the path of end-of-year reflection. I like to save that process for my New Year's ritual (my best friend Andy, Matt, and I always fill out a reflection form and make collages to visually represent our intentions for the upcoming year).

Let's see how I fared according to my intentions for this month:
  • Organize the bedroom: I started this task, but didn't finish it.
  • Organize the kitchen: Ditto.
  • Pull together Matt's birthday present: Yes! I was quite happy with it.
  • Invite a friend over for a dinner party: I put this on Matt's plate (pun intended), and it didn't end up working out.
  • Attend a La Leche meeting: I tried, but I ended up missing it because the website was down and by the time I finally located the address and forged through the Houston traffic, the meeting was over.
  • Spend Thanksgiving vacation engaged in a two-person writing retreat (with my best friend): We decided not to work on our writing because he just bought a new house and wanted to obsess about how to decorate it, and I was equally obsessed with how to decorate the baby's room.
  • Help Matt plan his birthday party: Yes! It was very, very fun.
  • Spruce up our front porch: Yes! I suffered through the intolerable project of making new cushions.
  • Buy holiday presents: Yes!
  • Organize the living room: Yes!
  • Keep working on baby's room: Yes!
  • Learn about infancy: I feel like I've learned almost as much as I can about infancy, so I've moved on to learning about birth.
  • Relax and rest: Yes, for the most part, I've still been able to nap and exercise every day. I also go to prenatal yoga once a week.

And here are my intentions for the upcoming month:
  • Organize dining room (as well as the rooms that didn't get finished last month)
  • Enroll participants for the last Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy before I have a baby (starts January 2)
  • Have fun implementing our new holiday traditions
  • Finish putting together the baby's room
  • Finalize our baby registry and send out the link
  • Plan our baby shower for January
  • Plan my birthday party for early February (I promise it will be low-key, since I'll be in my last month of pregnancy)
  • Continue learning about birth
  • Have friends over for dinner
  • Start working on my New Year's Reflection form
  • Rest & relax

I'm looking forward to it!

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nursery Update

We've made significant progress on the nursery, primarily because we had a friend come to visit, and we needed to clean up the baby's room for him (which is also our guest room and our office).

We somehow managed to scatter everything from our old office/craft room throughout the rest of the house (while trying not to let the rest of the house feel cluttered). Matt also put together the IKEA bookcase we recently bought. I would have preferred to buy a vintage shelf, but the EXPEDIT shelf from IKEA honestly seems like the perfect shelf for a Montessori room. It's low to the ground for easy access, and it's very sturdy. Also, the separate compartments help with order and give items their own separate spaces.

We're still trying to sell our old futon mattress (which was our former guest bed before we bought a new sleeper sofa). We also framed three Charley Harper prints in IKEA frames (ugh, I'm embarrassed that Coconut's room is rapidly turning into a mecca of cheap Scandinavian design!). We moved a vintage desk from our bedroom, as well as lots of old baskets (also from IKEA), into the baby's room. I bought an Indian mirror from World Market to put on the wall next to the baby's floor bed, as well as a big, chunky basket to use for blankets or dirty clothes.

I found myself starting to obsess about finding the perfect ottoman and the perfect fabrics to use for pillowcases and the baby's quilt. I hate when I get obsessive in a completely indecisive way. I found a beautiful ottoman on Etsy and decided that I might be able to recreate it with mid-century modern wooden legs from Lowe's and directions from Better Homes & Gardens.

I simultaneously realized that making my own ottoman would require me to commit to a fabric that would essentially set the tone for the rest of the room. Oh, the pressure!

I decided to liberate myself from all the inane and utterly unnecessary stress by opting for pieces that can be changed out, via slip covers. Voila! The idea came from a book I read a while ago by Amy Butler, the fabric designer. She frequently changes out her pillowcases, chair covers, etc.

Although I don't actually see myself changing out the pillowcases and ottoman cover frequently, I feel better knowing that I can if I want to. Essentially, I could change most of the feel of the room by changing out the fabrics. I feel better with this option because my tastes change so unexpectedly (and frustratingly!). I opted for a $20 ottoman (from you-know-where), since it has a simple cube slipcover. My plan is to add some child-proofing to the edges and then use the existing slipcover as a pattern for a new one, hopefully using fabric I already have.

I've intentionally steered clear of "baby" fabrics and artwork. I guess I want a room that can grow with our child. The room also doesn't have a theme. Instead, I'm striving for a simple, soothing, organized, and beautiful Montessori environment.

Here's what's left on the to-do list:
  • Find a place for our gargantuan printer/scanner/copier
  • Find a place for our paper shredder
  • Find a place for our hand-held vacuum
  • Sand and paint our nasty porch table to use in the baby's room
  • Find a lamp to put on the table
  • Put together a portable breast feeding station
  • Buy a mattress for our Montessori floor bed (instead of a crib)
  • Buy fitted sheets for the floor bed
  • Get my office supplies off the desk (it's tiny!) and into some sort of containers on the wall
  • Get one more frame for another Charley Harper print
  • Hang all our pictures
  • Replace the mirror glass with Plexiglas
  • Hang the mirror on the wall next to the baby's mattress
  • Make the baby's first mobile
  • Hang a mobile hanger on the wall
  • Get a new lamp for my desk
  • Make pillows in cool shapes
  • Buy a clock and hang it on the wall
  • Buy a basket for the baby's first Montessori "treasure basket"
  • Find a shorter chair for my short desk
  • Buy a big rug (although this will be difficult because Matt and I have disparate preferences...)
  • Buy a little rug to go next to the baby's mattress
  • Buy a new light fixture for the ceiling (maybe)

Ideally, I'd like to get everything done before the end of the year, but I'm not going to stress about it. We still have the entire month of January if we need it. The only problem is that January is going to be packed with childbirth classes twice a week for two hours each, so we're going to be busy.

This is so fun!

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Setting Up a Library in a Montessori Nursery

I'm trying to learn as much as I can about how to create a Montessori environment for an infant. Of course I'm not going to implement Montessori dogmatically or religiously, but I will try to apply the principles and practices that resonate with me.

I applied a couple different principles as I was organizing "Coconut's" library. First, I purchased only three baskets for all of his books. As the months and years progress, his collection will surely outgrow these three baskets, but we will store the excess books in his closet and rotate them out as needed. This practice of minimizing the materials on the shelf balances simplicity and orderliness with the child's need for new stimulation and challenge. In Montessori home environments, parents do the same thing with toys.

The baskets (which, incidentally, are DVD baskets from Target) will allow us to flip through the books to look at the covers, as opposed to searching for books by looking at their spines (which can be even more difficult with thin children's books). I have always preferred this method of book organization in my classrooms. It's also aligned with the Montessori principle of incorporating hands-on manipulation of objects whenever possible.

Categorization and order are a big part of Montessori materials and environments because Maria Montessori believed that order in the environment helps develop order in the mind. For this reason, I decided to divide the books into three simple categories: fiction, non-fiction, and public library books. Each basket tag is labeled with color-coded masking tape. I also put a small piece of masking tape on each book, which will allow "Coconut" to return his books to the proper basket. An added benefit is that this system will help cultivate his independence; he'll be able to take more responsibility for restoring his own environment, which is another important aspect of the Montessori approach. I decided to put the small piece of tape (which I cut with pinking shears) in the upper left hand corner, since we read from left to right, top to bottom (which is why we organize Montessori materials in sequence on the shelves from left to right and top to bottom).

Further, I purposefully put the books on a low shelf, which means "Coconut" will be able to access them as soon as he is walking. An important part of designing a Montessori environment is to put everything at the child's level as much as possible.

If you're interested in seeing some of the books in his collection so far, you can check out this post.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

My Beloved's Birthday

Matt's birthday is today, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do for him. I was going to get really creative and crafty and make him a personalized version of SET, a game we both really like. The three shapes that repeat throughout the cards were going to be a bloodhound, a chicken, and a baby.

However, the thought of trying to work with a graphics program to execute my vision started to overwhelm me. I'm trying to simplify my life these days...

So I opted for books instead. Since our dream is to move to Austin someday, I bought him two Austin-related books: Backroads of the Texas Hill Country and Keep Austin Weird. I also decided to make him a bumper sticker with a picture of Hoss that reads "Hoss Fan Club," using Snapfish. I decided to make that gift from Hoss. Luckily, I also bought a funny roll of cowboy packing tape a while back, so I gave Matt that gift from Coconut (since Coconut is the only real Texan in our family).

For his birthday party, Matt planned a scavenger hunt at IKEA. He's a crazy boy, for sure. I promise to write another post soon that is entirely devoted to the IKEA scavenger hunt.

My best friend flew in from Florida for Thanksgiving (Matt went to Indiana to be with his family), and we're going to spend our vacation working on writing projects. Since I want to devote all my energy to a 2000 Dollar Wedding project I'm working on, I won't have much mental capacity left to write over here for a few days. But I promise to be back next Monday!

To those of you who live in the United States: Happy Thanksgiving! I am so grateful for so many things in my life, and this space to connect with kindred spirits is one of the things I'm thankful for!

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Crock Pot Recipe of the Week

I am falling in love with my crock pot. I've never been much of a soup person (I wish I were!), but the chunky things we've been making in our crock pot are making me very happy.

We started with a delicious white bean chili, which we ate with grilled cheese. Last week, we made a vegetarian chili. I spent about 15 minutes dumping stuff in the crock pot before leaving for work. That evening, I got home late from a faculty meeting and had to grab a quick bowl before heading out the door to the La Leche League meeting (which, incidentally, I ended up missing because their server was down, so I couldn't find the address, and the traffic was horrendous).

I added cheese, onions, and crumpled up some corn chips on top. Pure deliciousness! I was honestly looking forward to leftovers, but Matt and I had to leave down unexpectedly for a family funeral.

This week, Matt wants to try a chili recipe from his favorite restaurant. I'm not so enthusiastic about the long list of ingredients, but I'm eager to taste his creation!

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Birthday Planning

Picture from my random acts of kindness scavenger hunt birthday party (I even had shirts made)

Our baby is due seven days after my birthday. One week! Even though I don't place much stock in a single "due date" (I think it's much more realistic to establish a "due window"), it's clear that our baby boy and I will have birthdays in very close proximity.

Although I know lots of parents who enjoy celebrating their birthdays around the same time as their children's, I don't think I'll be one of them. I think I would prefer to help my child plan his birthday party in February and then plan my own birthday celebration in an entirely different month. It's just that I really, really like to celebrate my birthday by planning a fun party that brings my friends together (like with random acts of kindness scavenger hunts or retro proms).

That's why it seems logical to me to relinquish my February 9th birthday and start celebrating my half birthday on August 9th instead. This idea makes a lot of people--like my husband--mad. I can't really understand why. I'm not asking for two days to celebrate myself; I'm simply asking to postpone the day by six months.

With that in mind, I need to decide whether I want to have one more February 9th celebration right before our baby is due or whether I want to start the August 9th celebration instead. seems to me that I shouldn't "count my chickens before they hatch" so-to-speak and that I shouldn't rearrange my whole birthday for a baby until he has arrived safely.

With that in mind, I guess I should start planning my February birthday. Matt and I are already planning a bowling baby shower, so we'll need something very different. Maybe I should do something low-key, like go to a slow-foods brunch and a walk in the country event (sponsored by a local farm)? I wonder if they will still have those in February...

Or maybe Matt and I could rent a cabin right outside the city and then invite our friends over for a slow foods brunch and a walk in the country? Ooh...that could be a lot of fun! I could have one more getaway weekend with Matt before our little one arrives. We could relax on Saturday afternoon and evening at the cabin, and then we could cook together on Sunday morning in preparation for the brunch. Oh wait. Given common check-out times, maybe we should stay for two nights and have the brunch on Saturday morning. We'll have to see. Sometimes those places are more lenient.

I'm liking this idea very much!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Second Trimester Pregnancy Advice

I'm 26 weeks pregnant (approximately three months to go, for the vast majority of the world that doesn't count pregnancy in weeks!), which means I am nearing the end of the second trimester. I thought I would take a minute to sit down and reflect on the things that are helping me have a positive pregnancy, since I have a terrible memory and usually forget the things I don't write down!
  • Making Space in My Life for Pregnancy: This one has definitely been the hardest--and yet I think it's done the most to help me have a positive experience. I treat my pregnancy like it's a major commitment in my life. In the same way I would set aside time to work on projects for my career and attend to them with seriousness and dedication, I set aside time to "work on" my pregnancy. I set aside approximately two hours every day to nap and walk. Now that I've actually written it down (two hours!), I'm realizing what a feat that is. If you would have asked me before I was pregnant if I could carve out two hours a day to nap and exercise, I would have laughed out loud. But here I am doing it! It took me a lot to get to this place. I had to back out of two significant commitments in my life (being the editor of my neighborhood newsletter and co-authoring a neighborhood blog). On a daily basis, I have to keep myself from committing to new things. I also have to be very efficient with my time. I have to maximize my spare time, avoid wasted time at work, and multitask. But it's worth it. I feel like I have a really good balance among my job, my blogs, my e-course, my pregnancy, and my friends/family.
  • Eating Smaller Meals Throughout the Day: All my organs have been getting smooshed around and moved to different places throughout the second trimester, It helps to eat small meals throughout the day rather than fewer, larger meals. Also, I think that eating frequently throughout the day (I eat breakfast, then a smoothie, then a snack, then a small lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner) has helped me avoid heart burn and keep my blood sugar even, which means I can do a much better job at eating healthy things when it is time to eat. (If I let myself get really hungry in between meals, I'm much more likely to eat the first thing I come across, regardless of whether or not it's healthy.)
  • Exercising Frequently: Pre-baby, I used to try and jog for about 35 minutes 3-4 times a week. As soon as I conceived, jogging no longer felt comfortable (I think because I was bloated). As soon as my pregnancy was confirmed, my midwife recommended that I start walking rather than running. She said that I should walk for at least 47 or 48 minutes at a time (I can't remember the exact number she said). I'm usually able to walk for about an hour, six days a week. This time does so much to help me relieve stress, feel like I'm maintaining my endurance for labor, and keep my pregnancy weight gain within a healthy range.
  • Taking Naps: Can you tell I love naps? I think they do so much to help me release the stress of my job, prevent swelling, and make quiet time in my day for me to think about the baby and check in with my body (in those few minutes before I am completely asleep!).
  • Keep My Stress Level Down: I think one of the best things we can do for ourselves and our babies during pregnancy is to keep our stress levels down. This one is hard for me. I've had to identify which strategies work best for me (exercise, naps, deep breathing, and preventing myself from getting over-committed).
  • Sitting Instead of Standing, Laying Down Instead of Sitting: I read in some book that whenever possible, you should sit instead of stand, and lay down instead of sitting. I try to implement this strategy throughout the day. It's hard to do because my body doesn't always feel like it needs to sit down, but if I can sit down, I do.
  • Staying Hydrated: Although my doula recently told me that I drink too much water (she says that my daily intake of approximately 120 ounces will be difficult to maintain during birth and I shouldn't get my body accustomed to needing that much water to stay hydrated), I still try to drink at least 80 ounces of water a day.
  • Drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea: Midwives have been recommending red raspberry leaf tea for a long time to help strengthen the uterus and prepare it for birth.
  • Learning as Much as I Can About How to Handle an Infant: I really believe that we can reduce some of the potential anxiety associated with becoming a new mother by learning as much as we can about newborn issues. Of course you can't learn everything from a book and a lot will depend on your baby, but there are still basic things that we can learn in advance, which can help ease our minds about the impending transition.
  • Adding to Our Registry: Figuring out what kind of products we think we'll need for our baby has been a long process. Luckily, I started early because we received the book Baby Bargains as a gift. I started an Amazon registry early on and have been adding to it for the past couple months. The process has involved lots of research and conversations with other mothers.
  • Anticipating Home Organizing Projects and Getting a Head Start: Apparently the "nesting" instinct kicks in later in the pregnancy, but I didn't want to save everything until the end. I created a schedule for myself that challenges me to focus on one room a month. I have to confess that I haven't stuck to this schedule, but at least I won't be in a major rush at the end to get everything done.
  • Avoiding Refined Sugar: My midwife recommends that I read all food packaging carefully and not consume more than 3-6 grams of refined sugar. This means I don't drink orange juice or eat flavored yogurt. I have to be super-conscious about what cereal I eat, and I have to buy unsweetened almond milk. I steer clear of all baked goods, as well as delicious treats like ice-cream. Although it's not easy to navigate through my daily life without eating refined sugar (there always seem to be cupcakes in the teachers' lounge!), I think it's helped me to have a healthier pregnancy.
  • Using Food to Fuel My Body and Our Baby's Growth: All the pregnancy books say that "eating for two" is a myth, and that you don't actually need to eat very many extra calories at all during pregnancy (only about 300 a day). Instead, we should look at "eating for two" as a reminder that what we put in our bodies is being used to nourish our babies, and we should eat accordingly. I'm not suggesting that pregnant women need to take this to the extreme and develop severe guilt complexes if they put something unhealthy in their mouths, but we should be mindful about what we're eating, why we're eating it, and the potential benefits/drawbacks of our choices.
  • Continuing to Take Prenatal Vitamins Religiously: These vitamins can help ensure that our bodies are getting everything our babies need.
  • Sign Up for Prenatal Yoga: I love my weekly prenatal yoga class! It helps me learn strategies for focusing, centering myself, and relaxing. It also keeps my body more flexible, comfortable, and strong. Finally, it has helped me build a support network of other pregnant people.
  • Anticipate the Challenges and Planning Support Accordingly: Life with a newborn brings a whole host of challenges. I personally believe that the more we can anticipate and prepare for these challenges, the better off we'll be. For example, I imagine that I will need to heal and rest the first two weeks after the birth, so I have asked my mom and then Matt's mom to come and take care of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and dog duties, while we are learning to take care of the baby.
  • Taking Full Advantage of My Freedom While I Still Have It: I'm trying my best to savor each stage of my life! I try not to take my freedom for granted. I will never be this free again. Even when our child leaves home, I will always carry concern for him and his well-being. Right now, Matt and I are free to use our time however we please. It's a luxury!
  • Remember that We Can Control the Inputs, not the Outputs: All of these strategies are focused on creating the best outcomes possible for our baby and our family, but we have to remember that we can't control what happens. Pregnancy, birth, parenting, and life--in general--are unpredictable and do not bend to our will. We can do our best to nurture positive outcomes, but we can't ensure them.

That's all I can think of for now! I will continue to add to this list as I think of more stuff. In the meantime, please add your own thoughts in the comments!

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Responding to the Needs of Houseplants

Ever since I read Harmonious Environment and How to Grow Fresh Air, I've been committed to bringing more plants into our home. There's only one gigantic glitch: I'm terrible at taking care of them.

Seriously, I unintentionally (yet systematically) kill plant after plant that I invite into our house, even when they are supposedly the easiest plants to take care of. It sucks.

However, I am slowly getting better and better. I've started to approach my houseplant tasks more like a scientist. I pay more attention to the plants and try to be more responsive to what it is that they seem to need. I've realized that I can't just follow the directions written on the plant pot. Many of the directions say, "Water sparingly. Let plant dry out completely before watering." And yet in our house, these plants may need water once a week (which means I need to water the other plants even more frequently!).

Instead of following the directions, I've started trying to follow the plants. I try to look for the first signs of dehydration and respond as soon as possible. I've also tried to pay more attention to our plants' sunlight requirements. "Bright but indirect light" means different things for different plants. I've been experimenting with different spots for different plants and paying close attention to their progress.

Of course my new approach is completely in line with the Montessori teaching philosophy, which is based on an empirical model. Teachers are supposed to observe the children and respond accordingly.

It's also a good lesson as I head into parenting. Everyone keeps warning me that I can't learn how to parent from books and that I need to learn how to read our baby's cues and respond accordingly. (In defense of the books, most of them say the same thing!)

I used to joke that I needed to progress from taking care of plants to taking care of a pet before I would be ready to take care of a baby. It looks like my little joke is coming true!

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Holiday Preparations

Our new holiday countdown calendar is completely ready to go. I drew up some shapes (a tree, candy cane, holly, and something else that isn't coming to mind), wrote a festive activity on each one, laminated them (yes, I have a home laminator--I can't help it; I'm an elementary school teacher!), and cut them out. Our plan is to start our festivities the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

My goal is to have all of our supplies ready in advance, so we don't have to waste any time gathering things for our various projects. For one of the activities, we're going to make baked goods for our colleagues. I got Matt to brainstorm some ideas with me the other night while we cooked dinner. We thought about homemade granola or scones, but in the end we settled on brownies topped with melted chocolate and crumbled Snickers. Don't tell our colleagues, but they are so easy to make. You simply melt butter and chocolate chips in a sauce pan, pour it over cooled brownies, and sprinkle crumbled brownies on top.

And we're pretty much good to go with Christmas presents for our families. We're not doing much homemade stuff at all this year. With a ton of other stuff on my plate, I wanted to keep it simple. I still tried to put a lot of thought into meaningful gifts for people. I can't reveal too much because I'm not sure who's lurking around these parts. I can say I am very much looking forward to the holidays!

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

DVD Review: Happiest Baby on the Block

A friend of mine recommended that I watch The Happiest Baby on the Block. She said the DVD was way better than the book, so Matt and I netflixed it.

Although I found aspects of the movie disconcerting, I still recommend that parents of newborns watch it. I feel like I have some strategies in my toolkit to pull out when Matt and I are trying to cope with fussiness.

The main ideas presented by the movie are listed below. I'm not sure how I feel about swaddling, and shhh-ing really loudly in a baby's ear seems alarming. Then there's the whole "jiggle your baby's head like it's a plate of Jell-O" thing. It left me wondering if there are more proactive ways of preventing the kind of fussiness that needs to be dealt with in these ways (like by frequently wearing your baby in a wrap/carrier/sling so it's close to you and moving around).

However, watching the techniques in action as they quickly calmed babies was really compelling. I'm also compelled by the numerous positive reviews on Amazon. I'm definitely going to try them out if I need to!

My notes about the DVD:
  • Babies are like smoke alarms. They have one cry for everything.
  • Fourth Trimester: Babies are immature when they are born. They need lots of rocking, calming, and smoothing. The first three months are like the fourth trimester. They are often upset because they are missing the sensations that they experienced in the womb: confinement, noise, constant rocking.
  • Calming Reflex: Babies have a calming reflex, just like a knee reflex. The trick is to figure out how to trigger it. Swaddling, side or stomach holds, shushing (white noise), swinging or jiggling movements can trigger the reflex.
  • Swaddling: Most successful with square blankets. Swaddling makes a baby feel like it's protected and safe back in the womb. Pattern of wrapping = down up, down up. Put blanket in a diamond shape. Fold the top corner down. Line the baby's shoulders up with the top fold line of the blanket. Fold the left corner over the baby's right arm (which is in a down position) in a very, very snug position; tuck it and snug it underneath the baby's left side; fold the bottom corner up to the baby's left shoulder and tuck it a little under to keep the arm snug; pull the right corner out, snug it a little, pull it to the center, hold it in place; pull the bottom right hand corner of the blanket diagonally up across the baby's right side; snug it around, and tuck it into the back or side.
  • Swaddling is most important for the first three months.
  • Roll babies onto their sides with their faces slightly facing down--getting the right angle is very important.
  • The third S is "ssshhhing" or white noise. You sssshhh as loudly as the baby is crying. You can use white noise machines, the static of a radio, a vacuum, hairdryer, etc.
  • The fourth S is "swinging." You jiggle the baby's head like it's a plate of Jello-O. You can put your legs hip-width apart, lay the baby on your knees with its head on your hands, move your knees closely together to cause a jiggle in its head.
  • The fifth S is "sucking" on the breast, fingers, or pacifiers. When a baby is sucking on a pacifier, you should try to pull it away a little to build a baby's sucking strength (they are trying to keep the pacifier in their mouth).
  • Don't give a baby a pacifier until breastfeeding is going really well.

If you're interested in seeing the updated version of my infant care notes, you can go here.

One of the main benefits of watching the DVD was that it involved Matt in the preparation process. I'm the one who's doing all the reading, and I think it was really good for him to hear crying babies and see struggling parents.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Crock Pot Cooking

Now that Fall is slowly making its way to Houston and since I've been trying to build our cadre of easy-peasy recipes before the baby arrives, I decided to break out the crock pot.

Last week, we ended up eating out on Tuesday and Wednesday instead of cooking the meals we bought (mainly because I was uninspired by the meals we chose, and I kept napping longer than usual). Thursday morning, I woke up with new resolve. I put our sheets in the laundry when I woke up at 5:30am (it's part of my weekly chores, and I've been trying to do more stuff during the week so I free up more time on the weekend) and decided to throw together our crock pot meal.

By "throw together," I mean that I simply chopped up an onion and dumped it, two cans of white beans (I didn't even have to drain them!), a can of chilies, a bag of frozen corn, some vegetable broth, and some spices into the crock pot--following this recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking.

Sadly, I forgot to turn it on before I left for work and ended up staying late for a team meeting, so we ate out again(!). But then we decided to stay in on Friday night. We made grilled cheese and salad and ate the white bean chili. It was tasty! I'm definitely going to add it to the collection of recipes that I started in Springpad (thank you for the suggestion, kc!). I'm enamored with the Springpad system. I can collect online recipes and generate a shopping list from the ingredients. It's exactly what I was looking for--and it's free!

I'm also eager to try this Cheesy Baked Pasta with Spinach and Artichokes (which I found thanks to another one of your comments).

And I need to find more vegetarian recipes to cook in the crock pot. I can't wait!

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Book Review: The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

I finished reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International, and I definitely recommend it. Although it left me feeling like I still need to take a class or watch some videos in order to truly understand how to achieve a proper latch, I appreciated the comprehensiveness of the book, in terms of its attention to the emotional aspects of raising children.

Here are some of the small details I learned and want to remember:
  • Rinsing nipples with plain water is less drying than using soap.
  • Going braless for a part of every day will allow the nipples to benefit from the air and light friction of the outer clothing.
  • When purchasing nursing bras, be sure to make sure you can open it with one hand.
  • It's a good idea to vary breastfeeding positions to put pressure on different parts of the nipples.
  • In the early days, it is best to offer both breasts to the baby at each feeding in order to stimulate milk production and keep the breasts from becoming overfull.
  • Wash your hands before nursing, especially in the hospital.
  • Six to eight wet cloth diapers a day (5-6 disposable) means the baby is getting plenty of milk.
  • For the first six weeks or so, a breastfed baby will usually have 2-5 bowel movements a day.
  • When using the cradle hold, baby's head should be in the crook of your arm with your hand holding his/her buttocks or thigh. Baby's body should be turned on his/her side, with his/her whole body facing you, and your nipple directly in front of his/her mouth so that s/he doesn't have to turn his/her head to reach it. Your other hand should support the breast with your thumb on top, behind the outer edge of the areola and your index and second fingers below the breast, behind the outer edge of the areola. Tickle your baby's lower lip gently with your nipple so that s/he opens his/her mouth very wide. Center the nipple quickly in the portion of his mouth above his tongue and pull baby in very close. His mouth should be positioned as far back on the areola as possible before he beings to suck. Check to make sure the baby has not pulled in its lower lip along with the nipple. Also check to make sure the baby is taking a large portion of the areola under the nipple.
  • When removing him/her from the breast, always break the suction first.
  • Be sure that your baby is opening his/her mouth very wide.
  • Dealing with sore breasts: apply heat, get plenty of rest, and frequently nurse.
  • Make sure your nursing bra doesn't put unnecessary pressure on your breasts.
  • In the first three to four months, the average weight gain should be about 1-2 pounds per month.

Next Steps:
  • Attend a La Leche League meeting to start building a support network.
  • Start reading breastfeeding message boards to read about common issues and solutions.
  • Develop a system to help me remember which breast I last fed on.
  • Figure out what I'm going to do with the baby when I'm in the shower.
  • Plan healthy snacks to eat while I'm breastfeeding.
  • Get drain plugs for our bathtub and our kitchen sink.

As a side note, I added this information to my ongoing list of "infant care" notes here, if you're interested...

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Birthday Bunting

Hooray! I'm having so much fun making things that are likely to be in our family for a long, long time. Once I finished the holiday decorations, I decided to move onto the Happy Birthday bunting for our little boy due in February.

I followed the same pattern and process I used to make the "Cherish" bunting. It was even simpler the second time. Having a cutting mat and a rotary cutter really makes the process quicker.

I regret that I went with a polka dot pattern for the letters, since it's kind of overwhelming and difficult to read. A solid pattern would have looked better (Matt jokes--in a loving way--that it looks like a colorblind test). I might make new letters and iron them on to the back or I might just settle for less than ideal and start another project instead.

Let me go back to my List O' Handmade Goodness to see what I need to work on next:
  1. Pillows for the sleeper sofa in the baby's room
  2. A quilt for the baby
  3. A diaper bag (that's really just a bag with lots of compartments)
  4. An ottoman cushion for the baby's room
  5. Tags to label the baby's book baskets (fiction, non-fiction, and books from the public library)
  6. A stuffed animal for the baby's bookshelf
  7. Little bean bags
  8. Felt balls
  9. Pillows in cool shapes to decorate the baby's bed
  10. A knitted hat (with bloodhound ears)

I think I need to start on the ottoman cushion, since it's going to take center stage in the room. Whatever fabric I pick for it is likely to set the tone for other fabrics (no pressure or anything). I wish I were a better home decorator!

At first I thought I was going to make a poof like the one featured here, but now I'm wondering if I should make two squares to stack on each other like the one featured in this post (it's next to the description of the Echino booth).

Have you seen any other good ottoman patterns floating around out there? Please share!

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