Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The benefits of babywearing for moving house

Ergo baby carrier toddler on backI just wanted to share today's babywearing experience with you.

We've been moving and moving and moving, astounding all with our ability to stretch out the simple act of transporting goods from one location to another and the sheer mounds o' crap we have accumulated (and must get rid of, though that's a subject for another day).

Today was it. The last day in our old place. It was all clean, my little patio garden was lovingly prepared for the next tenant to appreciate it, and almost everything was moved out of the interior. What was left was two heavy, awkward pieces of office furniture that we'd offered — and had had ostensibly accepted — on craigslist and freecycle, and then the flakes never showed to pick up their treasures. And of course, it had to be the heavy stuff that was left unclaimed!

Well, we'd already returned our rental van, and our tiny car wouldn't fit anything like what we had to transport, so we had to wheel them. One was a chair on wheels already, and one was popped onto a dolly. And off we went seven blocks down the street to our new home with our old, unwanted pieces.

Meanwhile, I have a 2.25-year-old to manage. What's a mama to do?

Ergo baby carrier toddler on backUp he goes into the Ergo, of course! Snug as a bug, and happy as all get out to be at Mama's-eye-view once again.

I'd gotten really lazy about babywearing Mikko once he preferred to walk (run) all over the place. Plus, he's been around 35 pounds for over a year now, and my hips and back aren't what they used to be, pre-pregnancy. But when I shook out the Ergo a couple days ago on another occasion, he almost split his cheeks grinning and pooh-poohed the stroller in favor of a Mama ride.

So we three walked down the street with our office furniture. I was making a racket pushing an office chair down the pavement, and Sam was balancing the filing cabinet on the hand cart, and Mikko was smiling at everyone from over my shoulder.

Then, for good measure, we walked back with a lighter load to meet our landlady and turn in the keys (oh, joy! it's done!), and then we all stopped for lunch to enjoy the view of the beach. Then it was back to our new home, baby on board.

Mikko was ecstatic to be back in the sling of things, and despite the 35 pounds on my back, I felt lighter than air.

Boo, craigslist no-shows. Yea, babywearing!

Read more about different baby carriers and babywearing, complete with pictorial how-tos, in my Natural Parent's Guide to Babywearing!

Photos of happy toddlers being worn in carriers courtesy
ERGOBaby and bolinhanyc on flickr (cc)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cutting off the curls

barber shop poleI gave Mikko another haircut today. It had been months. I had more recently trimmed up the straighter hairs up top that were persistently falling in his eyes (a sad consequence of my family's inheritable cowlicks), but I'd left the back to grow wild and ringlety. After awhile, though, I feared the worst: a mullet. Much like my brother's 1980s hockey haircut — undoubtedly chic at the time, and an attraction for all the young ladies, but I didn't want to be That Mother who made her son look like a goofball all for the fear of scissors and an excess of sentimentality.

So, since the shagginess and unmanageability were growing, I went ahead and wielded the shears. And I did it while he was nursing! Are you impressed, or what?

You shouldn't be. It's not a very good haircut. Fortunately, curly hair hides a multitude of snipping imperfections.

I sighed, though, to see those bouncy, springy ringlets fall. Every time I cut his hair, I feel the tears at the back of my eyes to look at him, all shorn and still beautiful, but not as adorably shaggy.

This time in particular, I guess because we could see his neck again, and the shape of his face, he looked older. Like a little guy, and I love my little baby.

And I don't want to be one of those mothers (on the other hand) who bow to public pressure to make their boys look boyish at all costs. No one ever thinks he's a girl, despite the curls, and I wouldn't care either way. If his hair looked good long, or if it poofed in an attractive manner, it would be one thing, but it was looking a little bizarre. But I did have this fear that in cutting it I was making some sort of gender statement that my boy must not have long, curly locks, when really I was open to the idea if it had worked. And now his haircut just looks so boyish, and I had this flash to when he'll be a teen and maybe cutting it just this short, or even shorter, so that just the barest hint of his curls shows through in a vague impression of texture against his scalp.

And then there are all the old wives' tales thrown at me by countless onlookers, not all of whom are old wives, about their sons having curly hair until — dunh dunh dunh!!! — they cut it. And then it grew back straight. I guess, maybe, sort of, that could possibly be true. I don't really think so. But now I've gone and risked it, haven't I?

Mostly I probably just envy him his springy ringlets and wish I could have them on my head. I love to play with them, like Ramona Quimby — boing! boing! — while his little head's cuddled against my chest when he's feeding. I miss them. I hope they grow back soon.

Photo courtesy Kelsey Johnson on stock.xchng

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Reading The Wet Nurse's Tale: An AP wet nurse?

Gel-Filled Bed PillowsEverything's still chaotic here. On top of moving and the audit and trying to fit work in and parenting a very cranky and stressed toddler, one of our computers broke down, so Sam and I have been sharing. For normal people, maybe this wouldn't be an issue, but we live on our computers. The good news is that we've been able to get some offline (actual paper book) reading done now that our computer time has been cut in half or more!

One of the books I've picked up is The Wet Nurse's Tale, by Erica Eisdorfer. I'm only at the beginning, so this isn't a review or recommendation, just conversation. It's set in Victorian England and is narrated by Susan Rose, a feisty working-class young woman whose mother was a wet nurse and so who becomes one herself, caring for richer ladies' infants by breastfeeding and nannying them until the mothers want them back in their care. I wanted to see what it's like to choose as a profession something I do all day for free! Ha ha.

I thought this passage at the start was interesting:

Yesterday, Mr. Chandler brought his own mother up to see the babes. The boy was at the breast and the girl asleep in her cradle. ...

"And how do they do, Nurse?" she asked me.

"Rightly enough, ma'am," I says. "The girl's thirstier than the boy, but the boy cries off the breast."

"Well, see that you don't spoil him," she said just as if we hadn't been getting along fine without her for this week. "It's good for him to cry. How long has he been on just now?"

"He's not really suckling right now, ma'am," I said, "he's more dozing, the pet."

"Well, take him off, then."

We're used to obeying straightaway, of course, but I'd been alone for all the day without a word to no one and forgot myself and so before I thought I said, "Oh, but this one needs the breast to help him..."

Well, didn't she near rip that baby out of my arms, though his little mouth was still working at being roused by the talking, and there was my dug out and me hurrying to cover it and the baby wailing and Mrs. Chandler that was Mr. Chandler's mother briskly putting him in his cradle, none too gently.

And where was Mrs. Chandler the wife, all this time? Just looking out the window as if maybe there was a horse drowned in the street.

"There," said the old Mrs. Chandler, "that's how we do it in town." And then to me, "Mind your place, girl." And didn't she just blow out of the room like a high wind with Mr. Chandler and Mrs. Chandler his wife right behind her. I waited for a moment, and then I walked outside my door like to stretch. When I heard nothing and saw nothing, I went back into the room and picked them both up and put them in my lap and rocked them til they slept again.
[p. 4-5]

So, there you have it. Attachment wet nursing, Victorian-style. When I'm done with the novel, I'd like to find out what sort of research Eisdorfer did, whether it was typical of wet nurses to breastfeed on demand and comfort nurse and cosleep and so forth. I could see it happening if they were left to their own devices, because it is the most natural way of caring for a baby, but I could also see outside influences persuading or forcing a more detached style. The horrible grandmother reminds me of other real-life grandmothers (not my own mother or mother-in-law, thankfully) who interfere with a young mother's intent to breastfeed. Good thing for the babies that Susan's plucky enough to ignore the instructions when she's not being watched.

The book's due back at the library in a few days and is fairly popular, so I'll have to decide whether to finish when I can get back in line to check it out again. There's just something that bothers me about contemporary literary novels. In the first 20 pages, there were already a rape and suicide, which seems to be the way of it — depression for shock value or something. But I do like the voice of the protagonist, and I do want to read some more of these fictionalized accounts of what being a professional breastfeeder might have been like. On the one hand, the idea of paying or being paid for nursing is so foreign to me. On the other hand, breastfeeding itself is a daily occurrence!

Oh, also, the cover photo is so lovely. It's an 1839 artwork by Josef Danhauser titled, ironically enough, A Mother's Love. I dig how both tired and adoring the mother's gaze is as she rests and waits for her baby to finish feeding. And look at her discreet, 19th century-style Hooter Hider shawl, complete with tassels with which to amuse the baby! Heh heh.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My "I'm not dead but doing a good impression" post

urban grungeI just wanted to post to say that I'm not posting. That is probably completely inane, but I'm feeling the pull to put a word in.

For those playing along at home, we have been trying and trying to buy a condo down the street, and finally — finally! — we have our keys and are starting the process of moving in.

At the same time, the state audit of our business taxes chose this moment to resume, after an unanticipated lull, so I'm giving myself carpal tunnel syndrome copying and pasting invoices from the past four years in preparation. It's going. Things are good, but chaotic. Something has to give, in the midst of parenting, moving, auditing, family visits, working...and I decided this time that sleep would not be it. So, writing it is. I had written several posts and half-posts in advance that I had scheduled, but I've run out. I hope to find some snatches of down time, and quiet inspiration, to churn out some more soon. I also hope to respond to comments and read and comment some more in that great big lovely blogosphere!

Just to whet your appetite and maybe get some recommendations going in advance, we're moving to a place without a communal yard waste bin like in our current apartment building. I feel bad tossing all those kitchen scraps, so I'm looking into indoor composting options. NatureMill, vermiculture, and bokashi — any opinions? I'm leaning toward bokashi as non-smelly, relatively inexpensive and uncomplicated, and with only the tiniest of living creatures: bacteria! But then what will I do with the results, when I don't have a yard or yard waste collection? I'm thinking maybe gifting it to friends who have a compost pile, or to friends who have a yard waste bin! Does anyone have any experience with any of the above, or thoughts on composting in an apartment or condo building with noise, smell, and vermin restrictions?

Illustration courtesy ilker on stock.xchng

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Further proof that children are socially cooperative creatures

One of the most important ideas I took away from reading The Continuum Concept, by Jean Liedloff, is that children are socially cooperative animals. I've written about this before when an 11-month-old Mikko helped me brush the cat to illustrate that children's (and adults') tendency is to imitate the group they find themselves a part of so that they can fit in. I included in that previous article several quotes from The Continuum Concept about how children naturally become like their elders without any coercive measures necessary, which goes against the way our culture tells us that children are innately antisocial and must be brought in line with what is expected of them.

As I've been exploring this theory in my now two years of observing my child, I've come to realize that it's not the child's behavior that's so different in a continuum vs. non-continuum household; it's all about perspective. My particular child is simply behaving in a developmentally appropriate way, not doing anything special. But where some elders would see inconvenience and stubbornness and brattiness when toddlers insist on doing something for themselves, I've been able to glimpse an innate determination in my son to become more like the people around him. Two-year-olds, with all of their newfound abilities, offer some of the best opportunities to witness the concept of innate sociality in action. Here are my current experiences. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

     1. Mikko has started a new and hilarious trick of parroting back anything we say, with hand gestures and intonations, but with only scattered vocabulary. So, if we had said, say, "We'd better call Grandma before we leave," it will sound something like this: "Raa maa blu vrr Grandma frr raa maa." Only with astonishing animation, and a big grin, and emphatic hand motions. If he were a teenager, I'd call it sarcastic. Since it's obviously not, I'm going to have to reevaluate my prejudices against teens as well...

     2. Mikko says "uh oh" whenever something falls to the ground, whether or not he intentionally made it so. A book falling off the table gets "uh oh," but so does a tower of blocks he gleefully crashes into, and so does a toy he throws in pique when he's not getting his way over something. That last one is usually funny enough to keep me out of my own fit of pique during his mini-tantrums.

toddler sweeping broom     3. Mikko loves to help clean, as long as it doesn't interfere with what he's doing. I can't tidy up a box of blocks, say, without his wanting to start playing with the blocks, but he'll do other things to help out. He loves pushing a broom around or flitting with the feather duster. He lives to put things in the trash, no matter if we're at home or out. He even knows that if the trash comes on a tray, that you're supposed to put the tray up above the trash can. (What? We meet friends in a mall food court a lot...) Yesterday he spilled some water and rushed away from it, looking as if he wanted to leave it for his dad to clean up. Nope. Mikko was rushing to grab a pair of his discarded underpants, which he apparently considered an eco-friendly and convenient option for mopping up water spills. He was right.

     4. Mikko and the cat, Mrs. Pim, have a contentious relationship, with all the contention being on her side. Mikko would love to be friends, but Mrs. Pim is (rightly) wary. That doesn't stop Mikko from trying to win her over. He loves to give her her kibble twice a day, which we just kind of pile on the floor or put in a fun little food ball — but then we always lose the food ball because Mrs. Pim bats it into a closet or under a chair, so back on the floor the kibble ends up going for a week until we find the food ball again. Anyway, Mikko loves to scoop his little handfuls of her food out of the big bin we keep it in and toss it haphazardly all over the hardwood floors, where it scatters into corners and sticks to bare feet. It's not the most convenient way to feed a cat, but it makes him happy. The other day Mrs. Pim was hungry enough to actually come running when it was time for Mikko to dole out her rations. She stopped a few feet beyond us and turned her back, playing it cool. Mikko grabbed a handful and ran toward her. I ineffectually tried to convince him to leave her alone, since I wasn't sure what new torture he had dreamed up for her. (He really likes to point out that she has eyes, for instance, which she is not so fond of.) But she stayed put, and he stayed on course, and I was so glad to see what transpired. He carefully placed his handful down right in front of her nose and then backed away to get more. And, miracle of miracles, Mrs. Pim began eating! Even when he came back with more, she didn't shy away. I loved that he was basically hand-feeding her, with more care than even we take.

     5. When it comes to his own food, Mikko will not eat anything alone. He must share. And even when it comes to nursing, if he's holding a doll, he'll let the new baby have a taste of nummies first before he claims his turn. We were meeting the aforementioned friends at the food court, and everyone was eating fries with "dip" (ketchup), Mikko's requirement for every meal now. (It doesn't always have to be ketchup — just some sort of dippable sauce.) Mikko settled in on one friend's lap and picked up a nice long fry, dipped it, and offered her a bite behind him. Then he took a bite. Then he offered it to the other friend. The first friend laughingly warned her off from being the third to share a single fry, but it was beautiful to see the natural generosity at work in a little child (and, incidentally, a lovely example of allomothering).

     6. I bought a couple skirts and dresses lately in an attempt to be cool (literally — for the summer, I mean!). I found to my dismay that I could therefore not stash my wallet and keys and lip gloss in my pockets, because there were none. Fine, I sighed, digging through the closet till I found a purse from high school, the last time I regularly carried one. Naturally, my purse is Mikko's new toy. Giving him his own purse doesn't work, because he wants the one I'm using. Case in point, right now my purse is holding a toy horse, but my wallet and phone have been dumped and scattered. But an unexpectedly favorite item within is my glasses wipe from Costco — a little microfiber cloth in a plastic pouch. Mikko is fascinated with Sam's and my glasses. I try to reassure him that there is no earthly way he will not someday garner his own pair of specs, what with nearsightedness having stricken every member on both sides of our family, but it's hard to wait when you're two. In the meantime, he's practicing. Every time he sees the little lens-wiping cloth, out it comes from its pouch, and he immediately uses it to dab his eyes. Apparently, that will do in the meantime!

All right, it's your turn. How have your children demonstrated their inherent social cooperation? Does it make you as giddily happy as it makes me? (That last one was kind of a rhetorical question.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: almost 14 months of mama milk

almost 14 months of mama milk

"almost 14 months of mama milk" from a beautiful mama and toddler on flickr. More on nursing toddlers here, and link up your Wordless Wednesday posts here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How to make pico de gallo

It seems bad form to mention Sam's astonishingly yummy pico de gallo and then not give you a recipe for it. Here I will correct that grievous oversight.

pico de gallo salsa and tortilla chips

There are many variations on pico, but I'll just give you our preferred combination. In our case, it's a mild and chunky, non-saucy, sweetish and tangy salsa. It's all very simple.

Gather your ingredients:
     • tomatoes
     • onions — the sweeter the better — Walla Wallas if you're lucky enough to have 'em
     • cilantro
     • cabbage (the secret ingredient!)
     • lime juice
     • sea salt to taste (optional)

Everything that can be chopped, go ahead and dice into chunky pieces. Mix together in a large bowl and spritz with lime juice. Sprinkle coarse sea salt if you want a little more...well, saltiness.

There are no particular rules for how much of a certain item you need to put in. That's why it's a great end-of-summer recipe (can you believe it's September already??) for all of those tomatoes that are ready to harvest. If the combination you make feels too heavy on one item or another, remember that for next time, or balance it out if you have extra ingredients still on hand. There's no wrong way to make pico de gallo, as long as it tastes good to you!

For best taste, let it sit in the fridge for awhile to let the flavors run together. But if you can't resist eating it right away, I understand. I couldn't tell you how well this keeps, because ours never stays around that long. If I had to guess, I would imagine canning is possible, but freezing will change the texture of the tomatoes.

If you want more heat, add jalapeƱos or chiles at will.

But, as is, it makes a very nice treat for young mouths. It's mild enough for even very early eaters to give it a go, and since it's chunky, little fingers or adult helpers can preselect portions that will be appreciated. For instance, Mikko gobbles up all of the tomatoes he can lay hands on. At this point, we could probably add a little heat to ours, because Mikko enjoys some medium-hot salsas; so if you have kids who like the hot stuff, go ahead and make it as spicy as they want. That said, even though we enjoy spicy foods, it's refreshing to have this mild, fresh, juicy and crunchy treat.

The standard use for pico de gallo is to wolf it down with tortilla chips, but it also makes a lovely garnish for meals. Layer it over Mexican food (of course!), or use as a salsa topping for chicken, fish or eggs. It can even make for a unique relish on hot dogs or hamburgers!

¡Buen provecho!

Eerily accurate photo courtesy Alice Carrier on stock.xchng