Friday, July 30, 2010

My Little Knit-Wit

Last year at school Mitchell decided he wanted to take the knitting classes they were offering (alot of boys in his class were in it).  He tried it, he made half a scarf, and then decided he doesn't like knitting.  Now I crochet, but I don't knit, so when he was coming to me for help, I had none to give.  I looked up some knitting videos on youtube though and was able to help him muddle through well enough.  But anyways, knitting wasn't for him.  We had borrowed some knitting needles from a friend and she called looking to get them back (her boys had renewed interest in knitting).  I looked up a binding off video on youtube and finished off that short scarf of Mitch's so I could give the needles back.  While I was doing that though, Henry was watching me pretty intently.

"Mama, would you teach ME to knit?", he asked.

I told him he was too young, he protested, so I said FINE and showed him a basic stitch.  Much to my surprise, he was actually pretty good at it!  And he liked it!  He makes alot of mistakes, but he makes alot of progress too.  We've had some pretty nice moments this week sitting on the couch while I read and nurse the baby and he knits next to me in case he needs help (that's my book behind his head in the picture - "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder" by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman - an excellent read).

My 15 minutes of fame

It seems like i've been getting my 15 minutes of fame in about 3 minute increments. I was interviewed for about 10 whole seconds of on-air footage on the local news when my step-dad passed out behind the wheel and drove through someone's house in his truck. I've done a few different segments for Minnesota Public Radio. The Star Tribune interviewed me for a story on cloth diapers. But this is the first time i've contributed to something national.

A reporter from the Wall Street Journal called me for a phone interview on retaining kids a grade. It was very exciting to thing that my thoughts will be going out to WSJ readers all across the country and maybe the world! The reporter found me through, where an interesting debate has been going on about whether holding kids back is good or bad. For those of you who may not know, we decided to hold Mitchell back for a second try at first grade, so weighing the pros and cons was something we spent alot of time researching and thinking and praying about.

My take on it? It is a very individual decision. Sometimes it can be just what a kid needs to get a firmer grasp on the basics, gain confidence, and mature a bit. On the other hand, it can also make a bad situation worse. So I think that only each parent can decide for their own kid whether holding them back will be good or bad.

What do you think about holding kids back in school?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ivy's Space

I can't title this "Ivy's Room", because she doesn't have a room.  But really, does an infant need a whole room?  I think not.  A while back I told you all about my plans for the "baby nook" so today I thought I would update with pictures.  You won't see Ivy in any of them because she is sleeping in my bed with Mitchell right now, but I had a quiet moment so thought I would let you see what we've done.

After using the space a bit I decided that Ivy needed a play space up in the livingroom, so I took some of the elements I had prepared for her nook (like the mirror) and created a corner for her upstairs also.  She also has a crib mattress in her room instead of the futon we bought for her because for the first five weeks my husband slept upstairs on the futon instead of with us while he waited for Ivy to get her days and nights straightened out.  We just haven't switched things back around yet and really, since she's no where near rolling yet, I don't think there is a pressing need.
The corner upstairs turned out really nicely.  And since her area is flanked on three sides by a bookshelf, a wall, and an armchair, she is able to be on the floor pretty safely and not really in constant peril of being stepped on.

Now, don't think that my whole house is this clean and the "maelstrom" in the title is a bit of exaggeration.  Rest assured that directly around and behind me where I am taking this picture is plenty of insanity.  Pretty much my entire mothering life, the cleanest spots in the house are the baby's area.  They are too little to mess it up.  Once it becomes a toddler area instead of a baby area though, look out!

Workboxes, eh?

I have been doing alot of research on homeschooling lately because when the financial aid information came back from the kids' school, it was not so favorable this year as it has been in past years.  I am definitely going to homeschool Mitchell this year because besides the money factor, he has so far been pretty unsuccessful at handling a classroom full of kids without medication.  I haven't been very happy with the side effects of his medication so if I am able to homeschool him meds-free, I think that would be the best for him.  So we'll give it a try.  As for the other two, we are still in negotiations with the school, so only time will tell how that will turn out.

So as I was doing this homeschooling research, I stumbled across the concept of workboxes.  It is a way to encourage independent work by setting out 12 boxes with 12 different activities for them to do.  It is also a way to get organized and gather your supplies and whatnot ahead of time, so that would be GREAT for me.  I found a lot of detailed information about workboxes here.

I think this would be great for me because it would force me to be prepared and organized instead of constantly digging for supplies at the last minute.  And I think it would be great for Mitchell because the visual of all those full boxes becoming empty boxes would help him gauge how much he has done and what he has left to do.  And when I get distracted by the baby (as babies often do) he can keep working without me because he will know what needs to be done.

So i'm adding plastic boxes to my back-to-school supply list - i'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Diet Problems...

So we've been trying an elimination diet with Mitchell and it was seeming to help, but i'm not sure if this is going to work.  Every time i'm not around, well meaning people are constantly giving him all kinds of things on his no-no list, often without realizing it.  For example someone told Grandpa it was okay to give Mitchell beef jerky, but since he didn't actually read the label, he picked out a brand that had wheat in it (you wouldn't believe all the places they stick wheat).  Even my husband (whose idea this whole diet was) is guilty of not reading labels all the time and accidentally giving Mitch stuff he shouldn't have.  So lately his behavior has been worse and i'm not sure if it is because it was just a fluke and the diet isn't really helping him after all, or if its because people have gotten more lax lately and there have been lots of food accidents.

To complicate matters, he just got back from camp, where for three days he ate all kinds of no-no foods.  His counselors said he did great and his behavior wasn't a problem.  So that says to me that the diet isn't a big factor.  But then again, it was the perfect environment at camp too.  He was with all kids his own age or older, hanging out with a group of boys and teenage boy counselors, doing fun outdoor physical activities.  That's the least likely time for him to act up anyways.

So i'm just really confused.  I liked what was happening for a couple weeks there but we seem to have lost it.  This week we are starting a renewed commitment to Mitch's diet, but we are not going to try to cut out gluten anymore and see how that goes.  We are thinking that should be an easier diet to follow, and part of the battle is having a diet that you can live with day after day and stick to.  Neither the Feingold diet or Dr. Jay Gordon's ADHD diets eliminate wheat so I think doing a diet that includes gluten still has a shot at working.  We'll just work on eliminating dairy, added sugar, HFCS, MSG, dyes, preservatives, and pretty much anything artificial that we can.  Whole and homemade foods will be the order of the day (and pretty much have been anyways lately).

The hard part about these elimination diets is not so much the follow through as it is the uncertainty.  I mean, if I could have a doctor tell me 100% that such and such foods are bad for Mitch and that eliminating them would help him, it would be much easier to enforce the diet.  But when I'm always second guessing myself and I'm not sure what the problem is exactly, it makes it tough.  It's hard to stand your ground when you're not sure if it can even hold your weight.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Culture of Milk

I pretty much have all this breastfeeding stuff down cold. I can nurse with no hands, nurse two at once, nurse anytime and anyplace with or without a blanket. Or so I thought. I recently read an article about breastfeeding as a part of family culture.  As I was reading it, it occurred to me that often, when I am breastfeeding around family, I leave the room or move to a less occupied corner of the room.  No one has ever said anything negative about my nursing or given any indication that I should leave the vicinity to do it, I just kind of figure I should.  But the funny thing is, I don't do it for my own comfort.  I am very comfortable nursing in front of people.  I have no problem nursing in front of my mom or my friends or strangers at the park.  But I guess I just figure the rest of my family would probably rather not see it even though they've never indicated that.

So I was thinking, in these days of small families where mom may be done nursing the last one before the first is even out of diapers, many children and teens and young adults just aren't seeing much breastfeeding going on around them.  So, why would they see it as a totally natural and great thing when they've never really SEEN it much at all?

This will not be an issue plaguing my kids.  Mitchell is 8 and he is already very supportive of breastfeeding.  He brings me the baby if he thinks she's hungry, and he has no qualms about coming up and hugging and kissing Ivy while she is latched on.  To him breastfeeding is as normal as changing a diaper.  And many of our friends are pretty public nursers so all the kids witness breastfeeding on a pretty regular basis even when i'm not currently nursing anyone.

It never occurred to me that by nursing in another room, perhaps I am doing my younger extended family members a disservice. Far be it from me to be one who keeps breastfeeding in the shadows.  I want my female family members to feel comfortable nursing around me - I would never want them to have to go in another room (unless of course they really wanted to). I am the oldest child in my family, one of the oldest cousins too.  And many of the younger family members are just starting to get to the age of having babies of their own.  What better way to show them that it's okay to nurse with us than leading by example?  So if this next generation is going to have a strong family culture of breastfeeding, let it begin with me.

Cloth Diapers for Newborns: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Over the nine months before Ivy was born I did a lot of research and accumulated quite a little collection of diapers.  I had never cloth diapered a newborn before, only older babies, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  I got a little bit of several different things that had been recommended to me as well as some extra stuff I picked up for super cheap.  Alot of it wasn't great, but some of it was really amazing.  Here are my top 5 best and worst cloth diapering items for newborns... 


1. Green Mountain Diapers prefolds - I found that I really like prefolds for the newborn stage.  They are cheap, soft, and it is very easy to tell if they are wet or not.  I especially enjoyed the prefolds from Green Mountain Diapers because they are made to be shorter in the rise and wider in the hips so they are easier to Snappi and fit for a long time.  The orange edged prefolds would be excellent for regular sized newborn.  The fit fine on my 10lb 2oz newborn, but only for about three or four weeks.  Once she hit 11lb or so, they were getting too Snappi.  Green Mountain Diapers has prefolds in five sizes that are are approximately NB, S, M, L, and XL but they color code them instead of naming a size.  You don't have to buy every size either.  Since prefolds are so versatile, you could easily get by only buying the yellow (S) and brown (L) edged prefolds and just folding down any extra material.

2. Snappi - Many people just trifold the prefold diaper and lay it in a cover successfully, but I am guessing alot of those people either had a million covers or were formula feeding their children because when I tried this I got poop on my cover every time so I wasn't able to wipe and reuse it.  So I prefer to use a Snappi diaper closure to keep the prefold actually on Ivy.  It keeps poo off the cover very well so that I can get by with less covers and any time you can keep poo off of the inside of the cover, you know you aren't going to have any poo explosions either.

3. Thirsties sized covers - There are tons of good cover options out there.  One problem that many of them have though, is that they are cut a little too trim either through the crotch or at the hips, so they only work with fitted diapers or lay in inserts/trifolded prefolds.  I think a really great cover should be able to cover ANY diaper you choose to put on your baby.  Thirsties sized covers (not the 2-size Duo) were up to the challenge.  The generous cut and cross over velcro tabs also have made them very versatile size-wise.  My other newborn covers stopped fitting a couple of weeks ago, but I was able to use Thirsties XS covers the day she was born and still today at six weeks.

4. Thirsties Fab Fitted diapers - As I said before, some covers won't be up to the challenge of easily covering a Snappied prefold.  So if you have some covers you love that can't handle prefolds, I would definitely recommend trying a Thirsties Fab Fitted.  They are very soft and supple, hold plenty of liquid, and the leg elastic provides a great barrier to poo explosions.  The stay-dry inner layer also helps babies feel dry so that you can get a little extra sleep at night.

5. GroBaby (or GroVia) hybrid system - There are alot of one-size diaper items out there, and they are a great idea and make diapering much more affordable.  That being said, many don't work well for newborns.  I was pretty happy with the fit of the GroBaby diaper though.  The soft, supple, infinite crossover tabs make getting a good fit around the waist very easy no matter what your baby's size.  The system is meant to be used by removing inserts and snapping a new one into the shell (cover), but with a newborn that is pooping ten times a day, that just doesn't happen.  I found I could usually only use the shells once.  Now that we are at the six week mark though, and pooping has slowed a bit, I am starting to be able to reuse the shells and I am thrilled that I will be able to continue using this system as she grows, unlike most of her other newborn items.


 1. Pocket diapers - I have liked and successfully used pocket diapers in the past, but only on older babies.  With an exclusively breastfed baby, the poo is very slippery and tricky and it will find its way out of ANYTHING.  So a pocket diaper, with only a single layer of elastic between you and the poo, is not the best bet for a newborn.  The leaks that I did get occasionally were all from pocket diapers, both sized and one-size.  I have yet to get a leak from the double elastic protection of a fitted and cover.  One pocket that did work pretty well though was the Rump-a-rooz one-size.  It was able to get small enough to fit my newborn and the internal elastic channel kept all that poo right where it belonged.  But in general, your basic pocket diaper is not going to be your best bet for newborn diapering.

2. One-size fitteds - These types of diapers just have SO much fabric that they are extremely bulk and unwieldy on a newborn.  They still work of course, but you will need a much larger cover to put all of that fabric into.  When prefolds are so cheap it just makes sense to save the bigger stuff for later on.

3. Motherease Airflow covers - Functionally, there is nothing wrong with these covers.  They keep the wetness in.  But they are not a cover I would recommend at all.  The waistband and leg bands are not very comfortable at all and the cut is extremely poofy.  It reminds me of a pair of Gerber plastic pull-on pants that someone has added snaps to the sides of (though made of a slightly better material than Gerber pants).  For a similar fit (if you like the roominess) but much more comfortable leg and waistbands, try the Stacinator So-Simple cover.  This one has soft fleece leg and waistbands but the same cut as a Motherease cover - poofy.

4. Bumkins covers -  I like the idea of the air vent in the back of these, so I bought one, but unfortunately it just didn't cut the mustard for my newborn.  They are not very stretchy at all around the waist and legs so it is tough to get a good fit that is tight enough to keep that pesky EBF poo in yet still loose enough to be comfortable.

5. Bumkins All-In-Ones - These diapers not only had the same trouble as the Bumkins covers, but it was compounded by the fact that, like the pocket diapers, there was only one layer of elastic between you and death-by-poopy.  For a better All-In-One try the Thirsties AIO.  It is cut so that there is more room in the crotch area, almost like a poo reservoir, so the EBF poo doesn't immediately go shooting out the sides.


One diaper cover that I was very disappointed in was the Thirsties Duo cover.  It seemed like a great idea, the prints were super cute, it works great, but I just can't see my way clear to buying any more of these.  The problem is the cut.  They are cut to fit perfectly over the Fab Fitteds, which is fine - I like Fab Fitteds - but they are a little too trim for a Snappied prefold.  I can make them work, but it takes some tucking and arranging.  I don't want to have to do that at diapering time.  I just want to put something on and go.  Something that can cover ANY diaper I have in my stash.  The Blueberry One-Size Coverall is a much more versatile product in my opinion.  It got small enough to fit Ivy right from the start and unlike a one-size fitted, one-size covers don't have the issue with too much extra material getting bulky.  And the cut is generous enough to fit over whatever I might want to put on her, even bulky one-size fitteds.
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