Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Now That I'm an Expert - Feeding Time

Since I've taken care of one baby for approximately 53 weeks (come this Thursday) I am now (obviously) an expert on babies and childcare. And, being an expert, I now have lots of wisdom to share.

It's easy when you are hormonal and want to provide the best environment possible to get swept away in baby gear/clothes/furniture and forget the cardinal rule of buying for baby: don't buy anything at all unless you absolutely need it. You will get loads of gifts the whole year long that will fill in lots of these needs. Even if, like me, you don't have a baby shower you will still get enough baby gear to outfit at least one room in a daycare.

But I get it. You ARE hormonal and want to show your commitment to being an excellent parent with products. It truly does make you feel better and calmer so over the next couple of days I'll be sharing my favorite products out there along with some tricks of the trade I've learned from other moms and personal experience.

Trick #1:
Nothing is MUST HAVE except diapers, wipes, food, something to wear, and something to sleep on. These things look different to every parent and there are escalating levels of hell, I mean, products you can buy for every little thing. I realized early on that I had a low-threshold for baby gear takeover and purchased accordingly.

Trick #2:
Just because everyone in the world swears by something doesn't mean you or your baby will like it. Two examples from my year: Strollers and Sophie. I will talk more about this later.

Trick #3
Make it easy for yourself. If the baby never experiences a warm wipe they won't know they are missing warm wipes. If the baby has formula chilled, room temp, and very rarely warm they won't know it's supposed to be a certain way. It sounds bad but I've been grateful many times when we've had an emergency diaper change or only had chilled water to make the bottle. Lil' D is adaptable and it makes these stressful situations so much easier.

So here is the EATIN' and DRANKIN' section of my series on bringing up a baby with a minimal amount of product in this crazed baby world of ours.*

 1.  The My BrestFriend. Terrible name but nice back support. I used in tandem with a Boppy for a bit but this was better. However, since my nursing days were short (but felt like forever!) - my recommendations don't include a lot of things to help nurse. On a general note: I do not recommend the Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump.

2.  Breastflow bottles. We got hooked on these because they are good bottles to use if you are nursing. And I mean hooked. I wanted Lil'D to have glass but she got so acclimated to these that she would never take another kind. So, like I said, get your baby used to lots of variations. Without these bottles in hand we were sunk with a screaming baby. Despite what many lists will tell you we survived with 6 small ones and 5 large ones for an entire year.

3. Gerber Burp Cloths. You will use a million burp clothes for many months. These are my faves because they are soft and small.

4. Boon Lawn drying rack. We had GRASS but I wish it had been bigger. Get a twig or flower or two as well. This is certainly not a necessary item, as any drying rack will do, but when you are exhausted this does cheer you up. A little.

5. Target Formula. While the world rages on about how much better breast milk is than formula, formula has really gotten short shrift in the world of reviews and product improvement. Every formula has to have the same nutrition and there are only so many ways to make that happen it seems. We decided to try out Target formula vs. Enfamil and were pleasantly surprised that Lil'D seemed to have a better time on Target brand - which can often be found for as little as $21 a tub (on sale and with Cartwheel). However, if you are a formula feeding mom I would highly recommend getting some of the Enfamil travel powders. Lifesavers.

6. Munchkin bottle washer. Toss the little brush. You will never use it.

7. Bumkins bibs. Really the only choice. Machine washable and stays (mostly) in place. The only other ones I've liked are these Belgian bibs "Santens" my mom found on the interwebs but has no idea how she ordered. One day I'll tell you about the knitting kit she accidentally ordered me from Denmark.

8. Gerber/Nuk soft bite spoons. Great for tender little gums and provides good portion control so you don't choke that baby you worked so hard to get here.

9. Beaba Babycook. O.k caveat. I've had two of these and both have had to have the heating mechanism replaced (double caveat : the first one was used). That being said, when they work they are awesome. If you have the budget I would get the gigantic one. The company is great to work with if something does break (which hopefully it won't for you).

10. Wean Green Cubes. Great for storing your homemade baby food.

11. The First Years Infant Newborn to Toddler Reclining Feeding Seat. Great for baby to sit at the table with the family (still waiting on that to be more possible). It's also portable, super easy to clean, and for smaller babies it's cushioned and prevents slipping around.

12. Ikea Antilop High Chair. Super affordable and great for easy, quick feeds. It's really a toss-up for me as to which high chair I like better. Also doubles as a baby holder for when you need to get something done.

* There are certainly ways to be more minimalist than listed here. Something to steam food and something to mash food are a cheap and easy replacement for a baby food cooker. Also: Gerber, Earth's Best, Sprout, and Plum all make great baby foods.

What you will not find on this list:

1) Bottle warmers. Unless you are a pumping, breastfeeding mom you do not need to worry about it. The baby will drink whatever comes her way.

2) Bottle sterilizers. You will most likely be crazed with cleanliness when you get home from the hospital but that will eventually fade. In the meantime, boiling water will do the trick, but you certainly don't need to do it after every feeding, especially if you wash with hot soap and water every time.

3) Specialized things that "help" the baby learn how to eat solids. They will figure it out. Don't know what I'm talking about? Check out the skinny stands in any big box baby store or by the cash register.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday Lil' D!

Fresh out of the oven.

Today my Lil' D, my little B-dawg, Birdie Belle, Cutie-Pie Jones, etc. turns one.

I haven't quite wrapped my head around all that has happened this first year but man oh man I do love that funny girl of mine.

More to come after our birthday party extravaganza weekend.

One cool chick. Happy Birthday to the love of my life!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Forgive me Lent for I have Moved

I gave up sugar for Lent. I actually gave up sugar and processed foods. But I only really made it to the sugar part.

And it was terrible.

And I was stealing this from the baby to satisfy my sweet tooth.

But I was making it.

And then I either bruised or broke my tailbone (ouch!), we moved across town, I'm throwing two birthday parties this weekend, and I got my largest freelance project ever all at once.

And I just. needed. sugar.

So I caved.

We now know that sugar is as addictive as heroin, but I still feel terrible about falling off the wagon.

So I'm going to go drink a coke to make myself feel better/wallow in self-loathing.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Natural Toothpastes for the Grown-ups! And I Digress. A lot.

As promised (and I'm sure you are super excited for!) here is a list of my favorite natural toothpastes.

It's an easy list because there is really only one I've ever liked.

But let me back up a minute. (Follow the yellow highlights for the Reader's Digest version)

(Digression 1)

When I was at The Minimalist talk the blonde guy mentioned that with every interaction he has he always tries to add value to other people's lives. Which got me to thinking about the ways I could add value. And add value to this blog specifically.

So what do I know about? One of the easiest things I came up with is my ten years of experience, research, and knowledge of natural and chemical-free products. I've been obsessed with using toxin-free home and beauty products way before I ever got diagnosed with something directly related to toxins. And that's not to say I'm perfect in my usage. Because I am most certainly not. Sometimes only bleach will do. And, as mentioned in my diaper chat, I'm a marketer's romantic dream. Put the right color and font on a package and bam! my credit card is quivering in it's sleeve. But I try and try again. And since there is nothing cheap about natural products it's taken me a while (and added to my credit card debt) to explore all the different products out there. So it's time to share!

Which brings me back to....

TOOTHPASTE  (come back down here)

First things first. What is wrong with regular toothpaste?

(Digression 2)

According to the grand poobah of toxins, Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database, toothpaste is one of the least toxic products on the market - even when you buy conventional brands. Colgate regular paste, for example, rates only a 2 out of 10. The worst ingredient in Colgate regular toothpaste is flavor. It's only when you get into whitening, tartar prevention, extra foaming, and extreme flavors that the toxin rates of toothpastes start to rise.

I'm also not big into caring about fluoride vs. fluoride-free. I haven't really read compelling evidence for fluoride's benefit or toxicity. I shy away from toothpastes with fluoride because I drink tap water with fluoride in it already so I don't think I need more. And I was told over and over again when I had braces 3x (yes 3) that I needed to swish with a fluoride solution (Phos-Flur) all the time (which I did religiously because I liked the flavor) to prevent staining and all sorts of other stuff that happens underneath braces. Well guess what, it didn't. So I'm not convinced of fluoride's curative powers. But I'm not an expert.

So, again, why do I care about toothpaste?

Simple answer: I'm a hippie at heart.

If I could avoid chemicals all the time I would, even though my biologist and chemistry loving bestie constantly reminds me that not all chemicals are bad. True. I'm very glad for lots of chemicals in my life like the chemicals that made this computer I'm typing to you on.

Anyhoo. There are some things in regular toothpaste that I personally would like to avoid. Mainly dyes, artificial flavors (EWG score of 4), and the worst offender in my book - fake sugars like saccharin - which have been linked to neurological problems, among other things. While the EWG only gives saccharin a 1 (with limited data), my anecdotal evidence of watching my family gulp down fake sugars all day long and have many a health problem is enough for me to stay away. Plus one time I used Crest Pro-Health and my mouth went numb for a day. (Google it. I'm not alone.)

Bottom line though: I'm not going to freak out if I have to use regular paste for awhile.

START AGAIN HERE (Whoops that was a long digression)

There are lots of products I still find inferior to their chemically laden brethren (laundry detergent and shampoo top my list) and toothpaste was one of them until I got smitten with the packaging at Honest Company and tried almost everything they offer.

After 10 years of searching. The WINNER!

Like swishing with ocean water if you like that sort of thing.
Their toothpaste is hands down the best I've tried in a decade of searching. The two things that plague natural toothpastes are mouth feel and flavor. Pastes feel too sticky/pastey (I think I made that word up) and gels feel too gooey. Without Sodium Lauryl Sulfate to foam it up you don't get that "clean" feeling.  In the flavor department the flavors are either too intense (did you ever make "Wintergreen" smell in your science class?) or too bizarre - like this Salt one from Weleda.

Honest Toothpaste has a great mouth feel. The most comparable to regular toothpaste I've found. While the flavor isn't super awesome it is minty and not overwhelming or fake tasting. Honest toothpaste also foams slightly and leaves your teeth feeling clean. Especially when brushed right after a nice oil pulling sesh.

As Lil'D moves up into the toothpaste world I'll be trying out new natural toothpastes for her. I've already given this strawberry one a solid B. Taste was a B+ (Good, Acceptable, Could be Better), but mouth feel was pastey gross. B-/C+ 

In a pinch, this will do.

So there. Now you have it folks. 

(Skip to here)

Honest Toothpaste is the Winner!

Unfortunately you can only order through Honest at this time, but I'm a big fan of a lot of their products so I recommend trying a bundle.
If you have a specific natural toothpaste in mind... feel free to ask me about it! 

There is a 95% chance I've tried it.

Hearts and Pups,

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Will you ever just get around to toothpaste?

Me, my mom, and Lil' D's namesake
on Christening Day 1980
Yes. Yes. I will.

But in the meantime I wanted to share a really good talk from a guy some of you readers probably know. He went to University of Virginia and is now the youngest Very Reverend that has ever been in the history of the Episcopal church (I think) and he lives right here in the Ham.

I've been struggling with a tough decision about whether or not to baptize Lil' D. Now for those of you not from Birmingham - saying you are undecided about baptism in Alabama is probably akin to saying you can't decide whether or not to travel with your baby in a carseat. Are you crazy? Subversive? Both?

But like I said before I can't really call myself a Christian so it's definitely been a thought process.

I finally came down on the side of Yes! Baptism! Simply for the fact that I enjoyed my time in church as a child. Singing in the choir, Sunday School, Christmas crafts, Weds. night dinners - I loved it all. And before my brain took over, lots of the Bible provided some very real comfort to me growing up. So I decided that Lil' D should have that experience too. Then she can decide on her own when she grows up whether or not she wants to go to church or believe whatever.

So I was digging around the Episcopal diocese of Birmingham and found some really good talks coming out of Advent (unfortunately not my family's church, but that is another story). One of which is this one from The Very Reverend Pearson (who also happened to be friends with JTS's little sisters). I feel Rev. Pearson gave me my box to check (which I lamented not having a month ago).

The talk is about people who have left the church for being too dogmatic and are either sad or mad. I definitely fall into the sad camp (although I did not have a fundamentalist background). I remember the specific day I no longer believed in any of it. I was walking back to my mom's hotel room in NYC after searching out a Duane Reade for medicine. I was living there at the time and earlier that day we had gone to see Gypsy. My mom has MS and she had a very uncomfortable attack during the play. She had tried to pretend she wasn't hurting. But MS waits for no woman and by the time it was over she was in considerable pain. I was angry and upset, stomping up 7th avenue, pushing through the hordes of theater tourists, thinking about it all. And all of a sudden a light bulb went off. It just seemed like stories. Made up stories to make people feel better. And I was done. Andrew mentions NYC in this talk so it must be the city where religion goes to die. (But I promise this talk is positive!)

But I found this talk interesting and comforting to someone who, while not burned by the church, isn't an active member anymore. Actually I found all his talks really interesting. He is one smart dude.

It's called Having A Heart for Those Burned By The Church.

One more because you really can't beat the
late 70's/early 80's in the eyewear department.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Sentimental Journey

The air is warming up (I forgot how early Spring comes to Birmingham), daylight savings time is about to make me the happiest girl in the world and I have felt physically healthy for the longest time since my journey down a health spiral began almost 5 years ago.

I believe life has peaks and valleys. A lot of bloggers, I've noticed recently, call them seasons. It's your season to have kids. It's your season to work hard. It's your season for stress.

Well let me tell you I was in a real shite season for a long time. As people always remind me (like I would forget) it hasn't all been bad this past season. I got married and had an incredibly wonderful Lil' D.

True dat.

But I also have lived in 5 houses in five years (about to be 6). Made two huge moves. Experienced more physical pain than I would wish on my worst enemy. Experienced some loneliness from moving to a city where you don't speak the language, real or cultural. Had 4 surgeries. Been forced to abandon two jobs before I was ready to go.

I lost a lot of myself in this past season because I had to focus on that boring self that is just surviving day to day, not the self that thrives or grows or can give to others.

I feel like I'm finally, finally getting out of this season and moving on up to another. A peak (I'm just going to put it out there). This last month, especially, has introduced me to new people whether real or just in the cloud that have pushed me out of my rut into something light and new. I've been given books that have changed my perspective on everything from writing to purchasing to organizing to religion. I've listened to podcasts that have made me think hard about what it means to be a working woman, a productive member of society, and what makes one truly happy. I've devoured blogs about budgets and schedules and menu planning. I went to a museum for the first time in as long as I can remember for fun. I went to the park on a sunny day which I hadn't done since I lived in NYC so many moons ago.

And I'm not going to let my superstitions get the best of me. In the past, I've never wanted to celebrate anything good for fear the gods would strike me down. But guess what, they strike you down whether you are celebrating the good times or not.

So I'm celebrating.

The dogwood outside my door is opening up in time for Easter. Life is opening back up for me.

I've really missed you. It's been too long. Let's sit a spell.

Ed notes: This post originally featured Doris Day but I thought this song better reflected my mood.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Whereya been?

So, I know I promised a big update about toothpastes - but - in the meantime life got in the way.

Here is what I've been doing:

1) Went to two job interviews. A follow-up interview is later this week. And (o! happy day!) I got more freelance work. A logo job! Yay!

    1a. Having some success on the job front was totally an unexpected but very welcome event. This, of course, made me freak out about whether I should go back to work full-time or part-time or what have you. Even though I don't have a job offer I did lose lots of sleep over this question. I still haven't totally decided but since the thought of working at a great firm and not being broke fills me with the utmost joy I think I'm becoming more comfortable with working full-time.

    1b. I've been doing a mad dash trying to get Lil' D on the waiting list at day cares around town. Child Development Centers, as they are called now, are usually run by churches in the 'Ham and the waiting lists are long. Especially at the good ones. I really want her to go to the one I went to as a wee tot. I have the best memories of swim classes and story time and being line leader. I think she will really love it. That Lil' D is one very social butterfly.

2)  Trying to find somewhere to move. 
Did I mention we live above a confirmed meth addict? Who may possibly be in jail right now?
But yeah, I do. More on that later. AFTER I move. Did I also mention no one rents houses in B'ham? And that we have to be out by March 31st?

3) Prepping for my Lenten fast of sugar, processed foods, dairy, gluten, corn, and soy by eating as much sugar, processed foods, dairy, gluten, corn, and soy as my stomach can hold. I'm doing a 6 week event of "healing my gut function" for Lent since I figured everyone goes along with whatever you say you are doing during Lent without much hassle. It's a long and complicated process - I'll explain more later.

4) Got into an extended and unexpected mommy war argument with complete strangers (on a Facebook page that encourages play for children) over an innocuous study that basically said formula babies have no more chance of growing into ill dullards than their breastfed brethren. Man - I completely underestimated the vitriol the breast milk gestapo has for any study that makes formula look slightly better than rat poison.

The woman who posted this short article had the nerve to be happy with this study since her children are adopted and had thusly been raised on rat poison, excuse me, formula. Mind you the study did not say formula was better than breast milk. Or that everyone should stop breastfeeding and switch to formula. Just that should your baby have to go the formula route they won't suffer a horrible fate because of your "choice" (ha! choices!). Of course, everyone freaked out that this would mean less support for breastfeeding women. Ummm. Hi. My name is Daisy and absolutely no one but my momma was supporting me feeding formula to Lil' D.

When the boob police couldn't see how the information on this government website (for example) might make a formula feeding mom feel a smidge bad (ie: you are not giving your child pure and free liquid gold!) was when I bowed out, never to return to that losing battle. Needless to say, the study did make me feel less guilty. And, no, I won't rush out to convert a breastfeeding mom to my evil, formula ways. Despite these results (and being called a jerk, an ignorant ass, and some other things that start with eff) I'm still 100% on team breast milk! But seriously, thank you science, because I'm pretty sure my whole family line would have died out - not a one of us has been successful with the teat.

Hische Did These Letters
5) I got an e-mail from my favorite designer in the world. Have you seen Jessica Hische's stuff? It's so awesome. I sent her an e-mail and she wrote me back. Girl crush mania.

6) I write a weekly/bi-weekly e-mail update to friends and family about Lil' D. For some reason her weekly age sounded off so I went back and tracked it. Yup. She is 46 weeks old. Not 43. Not sure where I lost the time but I'm sure formula is to blame.

7) And my computer got a new hard drive to the tune of $265 I did not have. But she runs like a dream now.

So anyway - it's been an all around great week! Jobs! My baby has a fighting chance on formula! She is three weeks older than I thought! Famous people e-mails! New hard drive! And next up. Toothpaste!

Sorry, girlfriend, you were really 45 weeks old!