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. Hmm...it 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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Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I hope your Halloween was fun and festive! I was pretty happy with the way my crystal ball reader costume turned out. I will say that Coconut handled his first Halloween very well. He was an excellent crystal ball. I would ask people if they wanted me to read my crystal ball, rub my belly, and then pull out a fortune and hand it to them. (As a side note, I downloaded, printed, and cut the fortunes from this fortune cookie site.)

Matt had fun carving a pumpkin with our dremel. Hoss was happy that we didn't attempt to dress him up...

In terms of ideas for next year, I was inspired by a cute flamingo costume, a "Devil is in the details" costume, a french woman, and a family of garden gnomes.

By the way, if you have pumpkin seeds that you still need to cook up, I recommend this recipe:

1 medium pumpkin (5 to 7 pound size), reserve seeds
5 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoon peanut oil


Heat oven to 250F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut pumpkin open from the bottom, removing seeds with a long-handled spoon. Separate flesh from seeds and discard. Spread seeds on parchment in an even layer. Bake until dry, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Let cool.

In a medium bowl combine 3 tablespoons sugar, salt, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne. Heat peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add pumpkin seeds and 2 tablespoons sugar. Cook until sugar melts and the pumpkin seeds begin to caramelize, about 45 to 60 seconds.

Transfer to bowl with spices and stir well to coat. Let cool. These may be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Meal Planning Made Easy

My current meal-planning system is pretty inefficient. I have a binder of recipes that I flip through to select our four meals for the week. Then I make our grocery list. If I find a recipe off the internet that I really like, I print it and add it to our binder.

I love that we have a centralized place to store our tried-and-true recipes, but it's a bit inefficient to write and rewrite all the ingredients every week for the grocery list. It would be more efficient to have a computerized system that would automatically import the ingredients I needed for whatever recipes I selected for the week.

The trouble is, the only website I can find that seems to do what I want it to do is Plan to Eat, which charges $40 a year. As Matt and I gear up to drop down to one income for three months, I can't bring myself to enroll in something that requires a yearly fee of $40. We already have yearly expenditures related to our flickr pro account, our various websites, and our yearly charity donations. Now is not a good time to add yet another line item in our budget.

Does anyone know of good free resources for personal meal planning? I found a few interesting sites, but they come with pre-created calendars. I want to collect and store my own recipes and then plan my meals from there. If I can't find anything, I might end up creating my own bootleg version in google docs, which will have none of the bells and whistles of the pay versions.

I'm hoping you have some recommendations!

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Monday, November 1, 2010

November: Reflection & Rejuvenation

From the Nikki McClure Calendar

The months are flying by! But it's good. I'm simultaneously excited that we're getting closer and closer to the birth (we're due in mid-February) and I'm satisfied that I'm dutifully preparing for it. I think I can attribute my joyful attitude to the fact that I'm consciously making space in my life for pregnancy. I work ten hours a day on school stuff, but then I come home and take an hour-long nap and then take Hoss on an hour-long walk. Matt and I cook together about four times a week and enjoy meals out approximately three times a week. Then I usually have a good hour and a half to relax before bed (and I religiously get 7-8 hours of sleep).

Ironically, it takes a ton of work to prioritize resting, exercising, and preparing healthy foods, but I feel like it's making all the difference in my pregnancy. I'm continuing to take my other commitments seriously and meet all of my obligations, but I'm also honoring the work that my body is doing and giving my mind and heart the space they need to do their important work. These foundational years in our child's life are so important. I want to tend to them with the steadfastness and dedication they deserve.

I hope to continue along the same path once the baby arrives and I'm on maternity leave. I'm trying to set up tons of support systems to ease the transition. I'm also making plans to clear my obligations and responsibilities, so that I can prioritize our changing life and its new demands.

In terms of my to-do list for this month, I've been falling a little behind. I'm okay with it because I've also been working ahead on tasks that are coming up in later months. I think it will balance out in the end. Specifically, here's what I've accomplished this month off my list:
  • Learn about infancy
  • Complete holiday decorations
  • Travel to Dallas to make a presentation about Montessori
  • Travel to the Austin area to watch Matt run a marathon
  • Hire a doula
  • Keep adding to baby registry
  • Execute the second Purposeful Conception Course
  • Buy a new desk (we just moved the desk/end table out of our bedroom and into the baby's room)
  • Work on the baby's room
  • Make birthday banner
  • Travel to Austin to support Matt in a race
  • Relax and rest

Here are my intentions for the month of November:
  • Organize the bedroom
  • Organize the kitchen
  • Pull together Matt's birthday present
  • Invite a friend over for a dinner party
  • Attend a La Leche meeting
  • Spend Thanksgiving vacation engaged in a two-person writing retreat (with my best friend)
  • Help Matt plan his birthday party
  • Spruce up our front porch
  • Buy holiday presents
  • Organize the living room
  • Keep working on baby's room
  • Learn about infancy
  • Relax and rest

Some things to keep in mind for December:

I just spent a few minutes transferring things from this list to my calendar. If I don't transfer it, I'm like to "set it and forget it." I'll only have two weekends at home next month, so I'm likely to be a bit busy!

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