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Monday, August 30, 2010

Anti-recipe 6 Mary's potato salad

I am not one for potato salad. In fact I have Very Strong Feelings against most potato salad. Especially the kind with like chunks of onions and celery and dill seed and eggs. Something about that is just EW to me. OH. Especially store bought stuff. My face is contorting right now just thinking of how gross it is to me.


The below describes the Most Yummy Potato Salad Ever.

It is the creation of my dear friend Mary (read her witty blog – with actual delicious recipes here) from way back in HIGH SCHOOL. We were truly cute little California high school girls (weren’t we Mary? I mean, I don’t mean to sound prideful – very discouraged here in the Midwest – but I look at pictures sometimes and think, my gosh we were CUTE) I can remember whipping this up in Mary’s kitchen for bonfires down at the beach…occasionally eating a ton of it as we made it…HA.

Start out with a bunch of potatoes, say maybe 6 (if you were making to bring to a picnic). Scrub well, cut into cubes, cut out bad spots. (That is right, don’t peel! See! Lazy person potato salad! YAY!)

Boil till potatoes are easily poked through with a fork.


Add in mayo (maybe ½ cup) and mustard (a couple good squirts)

Add in chunky cubes of dill pickles (PLEASE no relish. Ew.)

Add in a can of black olives (whole or cut, your choice)

Salt and pepper to taste.

Eat slightly warm out of the bowl before placing on table for admiring family and friends.

Truly yummy. (Thanks Mary!)
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cloth diapering

So after that last post in which I came across as a blithering fool I will now post on something I know a lot about. Too much perhaps. Which would be cloth diapers. (Expect many, many posts on the topic in the future...)
little man in my first attempt at making pocket
diapers. Notice the little dude is undoing the tab

I love cloth diapers. I really do. There is something about a big baby butt in a fresh diaper and cozy cover that is just so right.

Although I must say here that after 4 years of cloth diapering I am way less enthusiastic than I once was. Maybe I am just less enthusiastic about diapering period. (Go babydear! Go! Do your pee pee in the pot pot! YaaaAAAAY baby!)

I love to encourage newbies to the whole world. So, here is why.

Why cloth diaper?

1. Cloth diapers are cheaper
2. Cloth diapers are better for your baby
3. Cloth diapers are not nearly as icky as you think to deal with
4. Cloth diapers are better for our earth
5. Cloth diapers smell nicer and are cuter

Re point #1 – Yes, its true you can spend an arm and a leg on cloth diapers. But, if you do it my way (cheap-see list below) and have more than one kid its definitely cheaper. Especially if you are the type to buy the expensive all cotton organic biodegradable disposables.

Re point #2 – I have read that disposables are now full of crap (HA, I mean chemicals!) that weren’t typically used when we were babies and are one of the contributors to rising infertility in men. That is enough for me right there, but it goes on. These nasty chemicals (the blue goo that pee turns into) sits on your babies bum (for 12+ hours for some lucky moms!) and all those chemicals DO leech into your babies skin. Nasty. My babies always end up with rashes with extended use of disposables.

Re point #3 – being a parent means doing things like wiping poo off of a wiggly rear end. It’s messy and icky. So for me the addition of dunking a poopy dipe in the toilet isn’t really that much more icky. I have it down to a science, dealing with poo. And as far as adding to laundry amount? What is one more load every few days when you are doing two loads a day anyway? You know? Read below for my how-to.

Re point #4 – Ok. I have honestly heard some moms refer to cloth diapering as “liberal” because of the environmental factor. Umm. Ok. Not sure what that means. To me reducing the amount of waste sitting in a heap for all of eternity is a good thing, (disposables sit in landfills for DECADES and aren’t fully biodegradable.) I think of it as my part taking care of this big green earth God gave us. In any case. That is all I have to say about that.

Re point #5 – Disposables smell icky when peed in. They smell icky to me period. Like chemicals. A fresh cloth diaper allows babies to smell like babies. Not some blue goo. With all the designs of covers and all the fun things you can do they are WAY cuter too. Much nicer than having some paper crap sticking out of your kids pants or having some Mickey Mouse logo on your babies butt.

So. Those are my reasons. Now the how to.

baby dear in a thirsties cover
Cloth Diapering FAQs

There are an incredible amount of cloth diaper choices these days, and it can be quite overwhelming to the newbie. A lot of new moms just want to go out and buy 47 Bum Genius Pocket Diapers.

I often find myself questioned by newbies as they stare at the options in front of them at my favorite diapering supply store. Apparently with two kids hanging on my leg I am worthy.

My advice?

Buy prefolds and covers for a new baby and a few pocket dipes of varying brands that adjust in size (via handy snaps). See what you like once you actually have your baby in your house. I avoid AIOs. Different brands are better for different babies, depending on the size of your baby’s cute tushie, legs, etc.

So. Did that sound like a foreign language? Here is a rundown:

Prefolds – traditional diapers that you fold in thirds and slide under a baby bum and cover with a…cover…no longer necessary to use pins as we now have awesome covers to choose from
Covers – no longer plastic one piece deals that were super icky to clean up. These are now closed by Velcro tabs or snaps and made out of a nifty waterproof yet fairly breathable fabric called PUL (don’t know what it stands for).
Fitted – a prefold with elastic sewn at legs and closed by Velcro or snaps so it is more “fitted” to the baby, hence the name. Needs to be used with a cover. (I make these myself. Instructions to follow this post)
Pocket diapers – Covers with a fleece “pocket” that needs to be stuffed with a liner. Good liners are absorbent hemp or bamboo and fleece. (I buy these and make them.)
AIOs – All in ones. As in diaper and cover all in one. Clever huh? These can be a pain to get dry though. I don’t have these.

G-diapers. People always wonder about these. Not really my thing, plus I don’t like the style of the covers. But, go for it if you want.

Wet bag/Pail liners. Ummm. Why? I always carry plastic bags from the grocery store in my diaper bag. I put wet dipes in the plastic bag. I don’t use a pail liner. Just the pail.

Disposables. Any? Ever? Yes. Nature Baby or 7th Generation disposable diapers are great. There is a time in a place for disposables. In fact, in our family we do disposables for night time, after a certain age my babies bladders just wet through cloth diapers no matter what combination I use. Also, I love Nature Baby but I do confess to using regular old Huggies or whatever when we can’t get to/afford the good all natural cotton kind, (which is frequently.)

Where do you buy cloth diapers? Well, all over the freaking internet. I like Etsy, sure, but go with a seller that is recommended. I prefer buying mine in person. I am not a big e-shopper altogether. I like to see and touch things. There are also little stores on the internet that sell a variety of brands. I like these …..

Tiny Tush
Green Mountain Diapers
Tiny Bird Organics

Sara’s Diapering must-haves:

In case you missed it here is my list.

Prefolds, 1 dozen infant size, one dozen larger size
Thristies diaper covers, 1 newborn, 2 small, 2 medium, 2 large (I have many brands of covers but like these the best)
Hemp/fleece liners 6-8 (I have bought some and made many)
Wool cover - 2, try these folks
Bamboo fleece or cotton fitted diapers, Thirsties 4-5 (I have made my own, bought a few)
Thirsties/BumGenious or some other pocket diaper 5-6
a cute little diapered butt, in a homemade
pocket dipe
Woolies – 2-3 pair, or if you have an obsession like me, 10-12 pairs. I love love love wool leggings/woolies., made by Disana and others (just look up woolies on Etsy!) or these folks (thanks for the link Cari) they are soft, super duper cute, and let your babies butt breathe. That sounds weird but getting air to your baby bum is key to getting rid of or avoiding rashes. I let my diapered age baby crawl/run around naked several times a day actually.


Care of cloth diapers.

Really simple. I got a plastic garbage bin with a lid. All diapers go in. Yes, even the poopies. I am lazy. (You know that!) Every two or three days I take the whole thing into the bathroom, pull out the poopy dipes, dunk in the toilet (this is so gross to say but it usually comes off easier when not as, er, fresh.) They make sprayer attachmentsyou’re your toilet for this purpose. I have always wanted one, but never had one. Then I put the dunked dipes in a separate plastic bucket, reserved for this purpose, and carry it all down to the laundry area. I rinse all poopy dipes, covers, cloth wipes, etc. in a rinse cycle. If they are really bad I put them through a short wash and rinse cycle. Cold water. No soap. I then add in the other pee-pee-only dipes and put on a full cycle. Hot water. 1/3 the soap of a regular load. Extra rinse cycle. I don’t have a clothes line (Bad Mama – I want one though!) I pull out wool covers to drip dry but throw the rest in the drier.

[Edited to add some things I forgot....
It's good to do a "strip" wash every now and then. Soap can build up to cause your dipes to be less absorbant. Which isn't good. Luckily its easy to do, just wash with dish soap, I use regular Dawn. Just a squirt or two. Then rinse an extra cycle, dry and use as normal. Also, if you get a real stinky batch - it happens - throw in some vinegar to the wash. re soap brands. I use whatever is on sale and "free" of scent etc. Expensive organic detergent isnt the best for dipes. The essential oils typically used cause build up really quickly.]

See. Easy. If you can wipe poop off your kids butt you can handle cloth diapers.

Any questions? (PLEASE ask me questions!)

More soon re making cloth diapers.

Next up: Ummm. Don’t know. Getting behind in writing. Babydear is getting molars. Am tired. Blah
Saturday, August 21, 2010

Anti-recipe 5: Adventures in canning

My three little jars, cooling.
Notice tomato sauce all over counter?
I will get that tomorrow... 

Of course one must can to be a domestic goddess. Must.

Truth be told I don’t even care much for canned produce. Limp green beans? Pickled beets? I guess tomatoes for chili or a sauce mid-January is nice and all. But we all know you can buy cans of tomatoes for a buck.

So what is the point?

Well, here is a good run down

Gardening and home canning can lower your grocery bill. Burpee Seed Company ( estimates that for every $50 spent on seeds and fertilizer, a gardener can yield $1250 worth of produce. As it’s not feasible for a family to enjoy all of that fresh produce all at one time, home canning allows you to preserve that fresh, home grown flavor from your garden for use all year long, and saving on your grocery bill.

Home canning supports sustainable lifestyles. Canning locally-grown produce reduces the carbon footprint created by transporting vegetables around the world in off-seasons. A study by Carnegie Mellon found that 11% of the average American’s household food-related greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation of foods. You can reduce that by growing your own produce or purchasing it locally, and then fresh preserving the harvest and re-using Ball® Jars year after year.

Fresh preserving allows you to manage your family’s nutrition. Many canning enthusiasts enjoy the versatility and control they have with fresh preserving recipes. When you fresh preserve foods, you can avoid additives and preservatives found in many commercial products, and you may even opt to use organic ingredients.
Seeing as my garden produced crap this year (apparently gardens do in fact need sunshine, something our side of the yard lacks…) So, I guess my reasons would fall under numbers two and three. Although, I did go buy fresh local produce at the farmers market this week, totally cheap. (pounds and pounds of tomatoes for $6!! Green beans for $2!!)

First of all, to preserve food you don’t have to can. To do the beans I simply snapped off the ends, washed, blanched (placed in boiling water for a minute or two) then cooled, stuffed in freezer ziplock bags (small size for our little family) and stuffed in the freezer.

Tomatoes can be done the same way. In desperation in past years I have chopped up fresh tomatoes, skins and all, tossed in ziplock bags, and thrown in the freezer. It totally works.

But, there is something about canning on a hot August day, rows of steaming jars filled with rosy tomatoes setting up on the counter, that just brings out the giddy June Cleaver in me. (Although, did June can? I think that era was all about store bought canned goods, nah, I am gonna chose to believe she canned. In pearls of course.)

I bought my very first case of glass canning jars this week (my mom is wiping a tear of pride away right now) and went to town.

Of course my first step to canning tomato sauce was to step into the living room where dear culinary-inclined husband was playing with the children.

“Um, honey? If you were to make tomato sauce to can, how would you do it?”

Ok, I did know the steps I just needed some reassurance.

First wash tomatoes.

Then, using slotted spoon, place in boiling water for a few minutes, until the skin starts to wrinkle and fall off.

Remove from water with slotted spoon.

Run cold water over tomatoes.

Peel off skin.

Now, two choices here, you can chop up tomatoes here and be low key about it (skip to canning section), or you can make sauce. I am doing sauce.

Pick out seeds. I chopped into slices and oozed out seeds/pulp to throw away keeping just the meat of the tomato. I am sure there is a more professional way to do this but, whatever, it worked.

Now, stew the tomatoes. For hours. Until the stink of tomato filling your house is enough to make you want to forget about canning and run out and buy Delmonte canned goods for the rest of your life. DON’T DO IT THOUGH!! Although you may, like me, choose to let the resulting sauce cool and finally put it in the fridge at midnight, to be dealt with tomorrow.

[Confession – it is now tomorrow. The sauce is still sitting in the fridge. I am drinking coffee and writing instead of canning while the kids watch Nick Jr. Just had to get that off my chest. A full confession would include the fact that I tried to make baked eggplant at the same time as tomato sauce last night. And the eggplant turned out terribly and I got into a pouty mood about it and told my husband to do the sauce. But, you don’t need to know all that.]

So, now to can.

[Confession – I typically do not can on my own. I can at my mom’s house where she has all the right tools and stuff and knows exactly what she is doing. Although she still looks everything up in her worn copy of the Ball Blue Canning Guide, which is so endearing of her. I also confess to being a partial participant in this yearly event. It is mainly a chance to sit and gab with my mom and sisters and maybe a neighbor or two and drink iced tea and send the kids outside to play. (“We are CANNING. GO FIND YOUR FATHER!”) My participation is usually minimal. Maybe I will wash or skin the tomatoes. The occasional dip of the ladle into the soupy tomatoes and dumping into a jar. Or, my favorite, the occasional eating of the juicy ripe peach. So, as I write this I am reading directions off of the Ball Jar canning website and other various places. I will include links to real canning guides at the bottom of the post. Don’t want to kill any readers out there.]

Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water. Or if you are lucky, load up in dishwasher and wash.

Keeping your canning supplies clean and sterile is KEY to safe canning. That part I paid attention to.

Next boil up some water in your big canning pot.

A word about canners. So, I don’t own a pressure canner. Luckily high acid things like tomatoes can be canned in just a big pot of water, as long as you have an inch of water covering your jars. A canner rack would be handy, like a to-go carrier from Starbucks, so you can just lower cans into boiling water. I really should get one. I just carefully lower into boiling water with tongs while wearing oven mitts. HA. What a ridiculous picture.

[OK. So I just ran upstairs to catch up to these instructions. Washed jars. Check. Went to put quart size jars in water to sterilize in pot and realized I only ever used the smaller size jars with this pot. Off to pack up the kids and husband and go buy a proper canning pot. Ooo. Maybe even one of the nifty canning holder things. Be back in a few!]

[Two hours later…why are Saturday errands so torturous?? I found a big ole pot at my favorite thrift store. YAY. Even got nifty canning tongs, though not a rack. Kids are napping! YIPPEE. Now to can.]

Place jars in hot water (not boiling) to sterilize and bring jars to same temperature as foods. Bring to simmering boil (as opposed to rolling boil? I guess.)

Boil rings in small saucepan for a few minutes. Use tongs to remove rings, place on clean towel to bring to room temperature (to handle without burning yourself). Throw lids in hot water until use, don’t boil. [Note: Never ever reuse canning lids. I did this once. Bad Sara.]

Pull hot jars out of pot.

Pour sauce into jars, leaving a ½ inch at the top or so.

[So, I go to pour my sauce into the jar (kids are of course awake from nap by now) and 1) its not very saucy and 2) it only fills up one can. So I look online and find this great website with a tomato sauce recipe, which includes chopping raw whole tomatoes (and zuchinni or squash if you have it lying around, which I do, and after the eggplant debacle I want all vegetables that need extra attention used up and out of my house, still bitter) and pureeing in blender then heating and reducing. I am totally doing this.

So as I go to do this, pouring tomatoes from the bowl to the blender, I end up dumping tomatoes on the floor and into the potted plant on the counter. I start laughing hysterically and yell out “Oh My Lord, I shouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen” to which my husband replies, “Do you need help honey?” “NOOOO!” Dammit I do not need help. I can DO THIS. Composing myself I puree zucchini and tomatoes and the resulting liquid is really gorgeous and smooth. Perfect. I CAN DO THIS. Now onto the stove to simmer down. I am gonna add salt. The recipe doesn’t say this but heck, I like salt. Just checked the recipe. Its gonna take two hours or more. This of course means my house will once again smell like tomatoes all evening and I will be canning around midnight. Perfect. But I will persevere.]

If you are doing chopped tomatoes [why didn’t I??] add two Tablespoons of Lemon Juice. [Tomatoes need more acid if using a water bath like me, apparently. Although I don’t get why sauce wouldn’t? Does anyone know? Insert comment after the fact: USDA canning guides say you are supposed to use lemon juice for sauce. I didn’t. The other website didn't say that. Shoot. My mom never did so, whatever. Oh, unless I was getting more iced tea during that part? Shoot.]

Wipe any spills off of jar and off of rim of jar for a good seal. Place lids and rings, screw tightly. ALMOST THERE!

[A note: One does not need to can jars and jars of tomatoes at a time. I plan on doing four jars of tomatoes. Keep it manageable, you know? My lovely sauce only fills up three jars. Boo. Will go to farmers market again this week for further torturing of self, kitchen, husband.]

Fill canner half full of water. [I am using the same water I used to sterilize my jars, why not right? I can’t see why not. It’s there. It’s hot. ] Bring to simmer. Place jars in canner. Top off with hot water. Bring to boil.

Boil for 45 minutes. [The Ball website says 85 minutes?? What?? Everywhere else says 45. Including my mom. Ummm. You pick.]

Carefully remove jars with gripper thingy. Place jars on towel, cover with cloth. [I don’t know why, my mom always does this. I think you don’t want them to cool too fast?]

So, it is now 10:51. Babies finally asleep (teething, fun). And from downstairs I hear that very satisfying sound of sealing jars. Pop.

All in all, the kitchen is trashed, I didn’t really eat today but, not too painful. Just over 24 hours. Maybe tomorrow I will try dill pickles?

Ah, just heard the third one. Pop. Just does a heart good, you know?

So, questions? Comments? (Hopefully my mom will be reading and can answer. HA.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010



Show mama a little love.

Shout out to all stay at home moms out there. LORDHAVEMERCY THIS IS HARD.

I mean really. Some days I laugh at how ridiculously hard it is. Like, can I just go sit in an office and grovel at some boss and do tedious computer work???


Now before I go any further this is in no way to denigrate/discriminate against working mothers. That is hard too. I did the work from home thing for four years, challenging in its own way. I have also sat in an office and done all that. It is hard too. This is just where I am right now…

……AT HOME…..


…….WITH……………THEM. Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun.

Ok. Yes, ha, I just wrote a blog the other day about how great a routine we had and all. Sure yes, this is true. Most days.

Other days. Like today for example.

Playdate at park. All fine and good. Stroller ride home, teething crabby baby girl who only wants to nurse falls asleep for 15 minutes. SHE WILL NOT NAP AGAIN. She nearly falls asleep. Several times. Little man wakes her up. SEVERAL TIMES. Together they destroy every room in the house. Little hooligans. Baby girl loses my phone. Still don’t know where it is. Together we pick up the upstairs, even mopping the floors, in an effort to regain control of my day. Then, they destroy the basement family room. They are right now dumping every single toy in one giant pile. I feel like screaming. It’s like anticipating a train coming to run you over. CHOO CHOO. COMING TO GET YOU. LOUDER AND LOUDER IN YOUR EAR. I am ignoring it.


It is hard.

So I am typing.

I literally spent 10 minutes out of every hour today locating some random toy little man absolutely had to have.



I would call and ask, but I can’t find my blasted phone.

When my good-natured, even-keeled child is on edge (teething, nursing ALL DAY) it makes it that much more challenging.

Why does no one appreciate the mental stamina mothering requires? Why does no one tell us? Warn us? For God’s sake, no one warned us!

The other day someone commented on how hard my husband works, too hard they said (he does the whole attorney-by-day, waiter-by-night bit). Yes, he does work hard. I am lucky and proud. But, I must add, that when dada is gone for 14 hours, um. Well, um, I am also working for 14 hours.

And, I am pretty sure dada gets to pee by himself (unless maybe a chatty boss tries to corner him in the men’s room?) He also probably doesn’t get followed around all day with someone yammering in his ear. “MAMA, put my mask ON. IT’S COMING OFF HELP! WAAAH. Mama? I don’t want it on anymore. GET IT OFF!” “Mama, milk? Milk? Nap? Milk? Now? Pease?”

Ok. I envy those with an office today. Shut the door. Give me some mindless work. Maybe even, gasp, something that requires my brain (my two degrees!). No problem.

The constant emotional neediness of mothering is, well, constant. It’s draining.

Why is it that society doesn’t seem to appreciate the actual work involved? I mean, no one says, “Hey, you went above and beyond today, mopped floors, dealt with teething baby, took the 4 year old to a playdate, AND made banana bread? Wow. Way to go Johnson-Steffey. Be looking for that bonus check soon.”

I mean, why don’t we get mandated lunch breaks? Even pee breaks?? I mean, come ON!

Not to harp on the peeing alone thing but it kills me. I tried to explain this to little man. Privacy, etc. Nope.
Didn’t get it at all. And then when daddy is home. “Hey hon, can you watch the kids, I am gonna be in the bathroom.” Seriously? SERIOUSLY? HOW DO YOU THINK I PEE ALL DAY? But, I digress.

The life of the stay at home mother is rewarding in itself though, right? The little hand on your face “I WOV OO mommy!” Yea yea yea. Etc. etc. etc.

It does do it….most days. Some days though. Some days I think mothers deserve more. More recognition. More community. Seriously. My husband spent his early childhood years living in community with a group of folks in Massachusetts. Not a bad idea, when one is a stay at home mommy. Wouldn’t it be great to have another mommy right here? Hey, can you watch the kids a second, I just need to shower quick. Or, hey, can you give me a minute to walk outside? I am about to flip my lid. Wow. Imagine that.

Maybe we can make this kind of community. We need to prop each other up every now and then. Call each other. Invite each other over for coffee. To drop in whenever. Bring each other a meal when you know someone is having a rough week. (I like lasagna. Joking....kind of....HA) Or you can all come run away with me to my yurt community in Northern Minnesota, or perhaps somewhere more temperate (I am up for suggestions). Insert smiley face guy.

So mothers. I think we need to give ourselves a pat on the back. It is the toughest work ever. But we are stronger than we knew.

And they are proving it to us. Ha.

P.S. I wrote this yesterday. I found my phone…and my composure…didn’t want to leave you in any kind of suspense.

P.S. #2 This post is for my mama. 35+ years as a SAHM, with sanity intact. A-FREAKING-MAZING.
Monday, August 16, 2010

shoveling: on toys and picking up

A wise woman once said:

“Trying to keep your house clean with children around is like shoveling during a blizzard”

What is the point, right?

I like neat though. I am what I like to call an organized packrat. Sure I have my pink heart covered diary from the 3rd grade, but I know where it is, and that, in my mind, makes it ok to keep.

I find messy houses too chaotic. I can’t think. I can’t feel peaceful. If I want to put my feet up with a cup of tea and a magazine (umm, when the kids are asleep?) I have to pick up first. Kind of nuts-o like that. I need order to feel sane.

But with two children now dumping toys around the house this can be challenging.

(As I type my dear 3 year old says to me, “mama, I want to play a game. The game is dump all these toys out of the basket and then play with them.” Sigh. Okay….DUMP)

The battle that ensues when one tries to get a child to pick up toys is almost, ALMOST, not worth it. Then after this hour long “Lets-sing-the-pick-up-song” schtick results in all of the Duplos finally back in their green plastic container babydear of course comes by and, you guessed it…DUMP.

So. What is a mommy to do?

I have found two effective tactics.

One, I try to limit the toys that are out. I choose the good looking, pretty, colorful toys to display in my living room, nicely, on shelves. I read once somewhere that kids don’t feel motivated to take care of and pick up toys that are ugly (some of those action figures out there!) or broken. Pretty things that have their place encourage play and encourage putting them away.

Doll babies go in the cradle. “Night night baby.”

Cars and firetrucks get parked on the bottom shelf “Brrooom…lets put the trucks away!”

Blocks get stacked on the shelf, baby toys like rattles get put in their separate bin.

Etc. etc.

Downstairs I do the same. This red bin for toy cars. That bin for trains. This bin for Rescue Hero guys. Etc.

Each play area gets a bin or basket for random odds and ends that occur. Then, this is key, every few weeks I rummage through the odds and ends basket/bin and take out stuff that doesn’t get played with and into the garbage bag it goes. I do the same with the bigger toys. If the kids haven’t been playing with this or that collection of blocks or that truck into the bag it goes. No, I am not heartless, I don’t throw the bags away, they get stuck at the back of the closet. Then, when little man comments how he wishes he had a plane/stuffed dog/whatever VOILA I pull it out of a bag. “Wow mom! Thanks!” Fewer toys to pick up at the end of the day and you get to be a hero!

Obviously this tactic may not last when they get old enough to track their toys. But for now it works perfectly.

Each kid also has a few spots for those treasured items like Ironman action figures, superhero masks, and marbles. Babydear has a basket at the foot of her tiny bed that she uses for naptime with stuffed animals, a favorite book, and a babydoll or two. Little man has a shoebox on top of his dresser with items he doesn’t want sister to get. They also each have little backpacks that old a collection of things like matchbox cars and shaky rattles, etc.

Having special spots for these things makes your kid actually treasure their treasures and it also makes life easier for you. If I find Ironman hanging out underneath the pillows on the couch (he likes to hide from little sister person who tends to chew on him) I just put him back in the treasure shoe box, knowing little man will be able to find him there tomorrow, safe and sound. Same goes for super hero cape and other must haves of my child’s daily play.

Let’s face it. How many hours have you spent tracking down the missing puzzle piece that little one discovers is missing and freaks out about…TOO MANY. I have better things to do than to search the house from top to bottom for the missing wheel to the Lego car (showering, for example, but I digress).

So that is one tactic, having a place for your kids stuff and keeping it all pleasant looking.

The other tactic is to limit the amount of time you spend picking up. I have made myself crazy before I had this revelation, literally following my child from play zone to play zone yelping about picking up and then just doing it myself.

This is tiring.

Picking up after your children ALL EFFING DAY is like….its like…I can’t think of an appropriate analogy to relay the pain of this but it is mind numbingly frustrating.

I try to limit myself. My living room is currently in shambles (remember “DUMP!” Yea, he still hasn’t picked that up) I let them go to town during my morning “sitting-on-my-ass-drinking-coffee” time slot, which may last 15 minutes or 2 hours, depending on my mood. As we leave for another “zone” to say, go downstairs and throw in laundry, knowing that my children are going to follow me and start tearing into the downstairs toys I make them pick up, or before lunch or whenever we move on to the next thing.

During quiet time (which little sister is currently refusing) little man hangs out in his room and I, after getting baby to sleep, pick up the house, sweep from lunch, etc. Little man then is in charge of picking up his room from whatever devastation he inflicted on it during quiet time (quiet time for him usually means shut the door to his room and go to town).

During dinner prep time/waiting for daddy I also let things go. But then we have our grand “picking up for daddy” time around 30 minutes before the grand (blessed) entrance of dada. That may sound corny (very June of me) but picking up before daddy came home was a thing my mom did that I now realize is really an excuse to get the house neat for the evening of dinner and etc. leading to (hopefully an early) bedtime.

I confess, I really need to work on getting my children to partake in this effort. It is much easier to do it oneself. And then when they do help it is very difficult to restrain oneself from putting the Legos in the Lego box instead of the toy bin where the kids threw them “helping.” In any case. They will learn. Someday. Right?

In the meanwhile…those are my tactics to keeping things sane.

1) pretty and organized playthings
2) limiting pick up to a few times a day

Another word re toys, hmmm…well, this may deserve another post. In fact, I think it does. More on pretty, simple toys (and my favorites) later.

So, wise women, what do you have to add?

*I have no idea who said this but she was very very wise. I stole it from a friends status update on Facebook. Shout out to Alexa!
Thursday, August 12, 2010

the playdate and daily rhythm

the kids this morning on a steamy August walk
The playdate has become a required part of the mommy handbook. When I was a kid moms didn’t take the kids on playdates. Moms got together for coffee and the kids played, hopefully you liked their kid. Now the tables are turned. We scope out acquaintances for suitable playmates (age/temperament) and arrange according to naptimes. I actually have some playmates in my phone listed under the kids names (ok, just one, a random park meet, the kids loved each other, me and the mom, not so much, and there it ended. Which brings up a whole other issue. What if you don’t get along with the mom? Oh well?).

And it doesn’t stop there, the outings we must do.

Music Together. Kindermusic. Gymboree. Broadway Babies.Tumbling Tots. Art for Tots. Soccer for Tots. T-ball. Oh. It never ends.

And I live in Minnesota. We are good old fashioned folk here. I can’t imagine what mommies in Manhattan must deal with. Not for the faint of heart.

Now you all must know one thing about me by now.

I am lazy.

I like being out and about amongst other human beings to be sure. I am not a total hermit. But that is with adults. Maybe out for a movie and a drink. Dinner in a restaurant with cloth napkins. Maybe a class or something at a local college. That kind of thing. Sure, great.

Kid outings though? Ugh. Schlepping you and your darlings out of the house for a 9am music class in the middle of winter is a special kind of fun. Only for the most specialist mommies out there.

Why are kiddie classes always at 9am? That is when I am pouring myself cup number two of coffee. I am not ready to join the land of the living by 9am much less do it in a perky manner.

But there are mommies that do it. These mommies baffle me. I have observed one mommy, who was in the music class before me (8am??? Seriously??) with TRIPLETS. TRIPLETS. She was also skinny, like pilates-toned skinny, carried a designer diaper bag and drove a car with leather interior. Not really in my league. She was so darn perky too. Her little darling girls with hairbows and the whole nine yards. How on earth do these moms pull it off? Mommies of this caliber go for daily outings with their children.

Ummm. Really? I feel like a whiney kid. Do I HAAAAAAAVE to???

Now, I know my babycakes appreciates it, I do. And babydear too. It is good for kids to get out, see how the whole interacting with other kids goes and all that. But really. We are going overboard in our whole yogapants world, IMHO. (In My Honest Opinion for those of you not in the know. Insert smiley face guy.)

These days I manage a playdate with a good mommy friend (who also happens to have children my kids age) every week or so. We may or may not make it to playgroup. Depends on if babycakes is acting up…or if mommy changes out of her PJs in time. We do go out of the house – to the park, for a walk on the many trails we are lucky to have around our house, or to the nearby lake – just about every day. I keep on meaning to make it to the art museum or something with them but, eh.

Park/walk kinds of outings are sanity savers though and accomplished with minimal energy on my part. Just like I like it.

When babycakes was little I would go on two of these outings a day, sanity savers, even though I was working PT from home at the time and had a nanny in three times a week to help out. I think with babycakes and babydear playing the way they do, which is well, for the most part (except when they fight over who gets to play with Ironman action figure, etc.) Point is, I can get by on once a day, and sometimes that is just going and running around the yard.

Even these are a lot of work sometimes. Take at the park. I mean, come on folks, am I the only one who is bored crazy hanging out at the playground watching big brother run around like a chicken with his head cut off, pestering big kids (he is obsessed with big kids) to play with him with a sweet “will you be my friend!” while baby eats dirt and tries to kill herself following big brother to the top of the jungle gym? I mean really. I get so tired of it.

And then dealing with all the other peoples kids.

“Umm. Can your kid not throw sand at my kid? Thanks!”

“Hey, remember honey, we don’t go up slides, only down” (as some big, huge 10 year old clambers over your kid to run up the slide.)

I have become much less “hovering” at the park then I once was, to be sure. I want my kid to play. But with a baby to chase and, how shall I put it, a precocious, big brother to deal with, well, I find the park tedious and exhausting. I long for the day when I can say, have fun! And sit down and read US Weekly in peace. (Will that day never come?!)

It seems like the whole daily classes and such, with young kids, is almost like escaping your reality. I’d rather conquer my reality, you know? Does that sound awful? I don’t know. My routine is important for me, and my kids too, its what keeps the whole mommying thing sane.

I have read that your day with young children should be like breathing. “Out” time, where energy is expended, and “in” time where energy is restored. This natural flow of things becomes all the more difficult when we are on the go all day. Plus, my rather “spirited” nearly 4 year old just can’t manage that much interaction and stimulation (umm, ok, neither can I!). But, I like that I can keep my kids at home all day and end the day happily. We like each other. We like being in our little house. We have cozy toy spots and reading areas and we entertain each other, or they entertain themselves, and I clean my little space and I write a little and, it’s good.

Of course the warm fuzzy “I can do this!” days are often followed by the “Get-these-kids-out-from-under-my-feet” kind of days but…nevertheless…they do happen!

I like that I don’t have to excessively plan out activities to keep from going crazy. Instead they are special things we to do together. The library! YAY! Etc.

Here is what our day typically looks like:

7:30am Stumble out of bed at children’s request (MOM, I want some JUICE!!)
7:32 Put on coffee
7:45 Make kids breakfast/change babydear diaper (notice how I put on coffee BEFORE changing diapers. HA. I am pathetic.)
8-9 sit on my butt while kids play (this may look terribly lazy of me but I am a much better mommy if I can ease into my day like this)
9am Dishes/laundry/etc while sipping cup number two
10-noon, laundry/errands/kid craft/outing or playdate if kids are lucky (HA.)
Noon – lunch
1-3 babydear naps while brother plays toys/ rests in his room or does craft/special reading time with mama. Also when mama wastes time on blog posts/internet/reading/work (if available), etc
3-5 afternoon walk to park/playing in kiddie pool/making dinner (if husband is lucky, HA)
5-6 play toys while pressing our noses against the glass, waiting, waiting, WAITING, for daddy’s bus.
5:30pm DADDY! (if daddy is working night job, which he does a few times a week the whole schedule is moved up, kids eat dinner at 5, bath by 6, stories and bed by 7pm)
6pm dinner
7pm bath, stories
8pm mommy heads down with baby dear/gets her down to sleep/puts her in big bed
8:30 Jack asleep (after daddy lays with him for approximately 30 minutes)
8:32 daddy goes to DQ (joking…….kind of)
8:35 mama sips wine
8:45 daddy come home with DQ/adult TV/book reading
10 bedtime

Ok. So I am not saying your day needs to look like my day. Or that you need to be as much as a homebody as me. And I am not saying that every day flows beautifully like the above ideal. It is the ideal. And as such, the not so ideal does happen. Point is, its good to think through what your ideal is and Make It Work. (Can you tell Project Runway is on again? HA.)

So mommies, am I the only one who thinks all this (internal/external) pressure for activities for young kids is nuts? Or am I some crazy hermit who likes hanging out at home? Please, back me up!
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

mommy confessions

Sometimes I miss swearing.

We all know you can’t swear around young children. Or older ones for that matter. It is wrong. It is evil. It is Bad Parenting

But, let’s face it. Sometimes when you grab a hot pot handle, or see your bus drive by with your hand on the door handle (here's looking at you dada), or you hit your shin against your too-sharp Ikea bedframe (what were we thinking?) when lugging sleeping little man back into HIS bed…well, sometimes you really really, really want to let a good swear rip.


But you can’t.

It is Not Allowed.

Little minds are too impressionable.

Babycakes recently came home from Sunday School, yes Sunday School, saying “Good damage!” (his summer class is mixed with big boys…ACK!)

What does that mean? We ask.

It means knocking down stuff is good sometimes!

Oh. Umm…don’t say that, ok?

I have managed to reign in my need over the four years that I have been privileged to be called mommy.

When little man was really little I wasn’t so careful. Before he was born I was away on an adventure for several months and surrounded by Aussies and other international types who drop the F-bomb with little regard.

You see, we had, in our old house (well, new one too really) a cupboard that tended to explode with Tupperware every time we opened it. In a period of a week or so the contents of this cupboard scared the bejeezus out of me several times. And yes, I yelled out FUCK! in the presence of my impressionable 18 month old. (One might add here that cleaning out said cupboard or moving contents into lower cupboard would’ve been smart but, alas.) And then a few days later. Yes, I did it again.

Little man laughed hysterically. Each time.

So, one day, little man drops a toy. What do I hear out of his sweet little baby mouth?



And he laughed, hysterically. This is a funny game, right?

By the end of the day (before daddy came home) I got him to change this new vocabulary to “FROG!” and he has since forgotten that word.

Lesson learned.

But, there is nothing like letting a swear out to relieve some pressure…guess you all can be the beneficiaries of my need to release.


Lucky you. Ha.

(posted with apologies to my mother, mother-in-law, and grandmothers)

Happy Wednesday all!
Monday, August 9, 2010

Anti-recipe #4 Kale chips

So. Too many meat-heavy recipes. (Don’t wanna scare off my vegetarian readers!) We do eat veggies. I swear.

If you are a CSA/farmers market/gardening type girl like me you may have found yourself in this seasonal dilemma.

What to do with kale?

It’s green. It’s pretty. It’s baffling.

There are a few good options.

Slice up in ribbons and throw in homemade chicken soup (with rice and garlic).

Stir fry (not a personal favorite, I like stir fry, just not so much with kale)

Simmer with garlic and onions (ok, but tends to be too garlic/onion tasting for me)

Here is one foolproof option. I swear you will be able to get through that whole portion of kale from your CSA without having to toss it out after digging it up from the back of your fridge, wilty, slimy, and sad.

Kale chips.

Hmmm. Sounds yummy already huh? And super duper easy too.

Preheat oven to 450.

Cut kale leaves into one inch bite size pieces (even wilty ones work, stay away from slimy ones though)

Toss with olive oil, just a little, too much will make your chips greasy, maybe 1 tablespoon per 4-5 chopped leaves? I could be way off though. Just wing it.

I know someone who swears by making this with bacon grease. Eh. I am not the type to cook with bacon grease. You can try though.

Sprinkle with sea salt.

Place in baking pan/sheet (I use my 9x13 trusty pan)

Place in oven. Toss a few times.

Pull out when all leaves are crunchy, maybe 10-15 minutes.


YUM. Even my kids can be fooled into eating these. “Look kids, CHIPS! Yummy!” “Yay! Mommy! Chips!” After 4-5 bites they are like “Wait-a-minute-you-tricked-us” but, hey, one can try…more for you then (insert smiley face guy).
Sunday, August 8, 2010

Anti-recipe #3 Meatloaf

So, to truly emulate June one must conquer the meatloaf. Never fear. This is not your mama’s/grandma’s/Aunt Esther’s meatloaf. This is meatloaf for the yoga-pant wearing mama generation. It is eff’ing good.

I learned the basics from my favorite cookbook ever. Once you get the basics down there is room for improvisation.

Start with 2lbs of ground meat. Any combination of the following is great – turkey, beef, pork, pork sausage (yum), lamb, venison would probably work, etc etc. Put meat in giant bowl.

Tear up a few handfuls of breadcrusts. I have only ever used the heels of bread or stale rolls but I bet corn bread or something like that would be great too. Dump these in a bowl (or the big bowl, if you don’t wanna end up with a sinkful of dirty dishes), add ½ cup of milk (or, if you are like me and hate measuring, a splash of milk or two). This is the key to this meatloaf – let the milk sop into the bread crumbs before continuing to mix, maybe 5-10 minutes.

Once milk is absorbed add in an egg or two (it really doesn’t matter, you can even do without if you happen to start making it and discover you are out of eggs.)

Chop of some onion, a handful, maybe some celery. Recipe calls for carrots but I am always afraid little man, who loves this dish, would never eat it if he spied something orange lurking in it. He happily eats carrots, just plain, better play it safe.)

Add in a handful of fresh grated Parmesan. Now I don’t know about you but I rarely have the good stuff in my house. We eat it up too quick. Some regular old grated Parm in a can “shaky cheese” as we call it works too, or shredded moz, which I prefer. Cheese makes everything tastier.

Now for the creative part. Toss in some salt, pepper (a goodly portion of both) and your choice of seasoning. I usually do fresh parsley and fresh sage (really, using fresh is SO much tastier) some sprinkles of cumin maybe, some garlic powder (like less than a teaspoon, or use fresh. I hate digging the crap out of the garlic press, nor do I like chopping it, so I usually use garlic salt). Maybe some curry? Or go the other way and do some fresh oregano? Lots of options here.

Now for the icky part. Take off your rings, take a deep breath, and stick your hands in the goop to mix. No, seriously, I mean, you can try using a spoon if you want but it really doesn’t work very well. Maybe a potato masher if you find that ick factor too high. I don’t touch raw chicken, as you well know, but this I can do, although I noticed the face I was making as I did it last time. That same face you use when cleaning out the sink drain or picking up a gob of old apple found under the sofa. Blech.

So, gush up good and well, form into ball and plop into large baking pan (I use the one 9x13 pan that I use for everything). Now, this is key. You want to free form it. Don’t let it touch the sides. This way fat runs off and more good crusty stuff forms. Trust me. I pat it down into an oblong shape.

Now for the indulgent part. Cover the loaf with several thick slices of bacon.

Cook at 350 for 45-60 minutes until meat thermometer reads 160. Baste occasionally, if you remember or can find your baster, with the rendered juices.

Serve warm. Or the next day on a slice of toast with cheddar cheese.

Friday, August 6, 2010

baby gear part 2

Ok, so, my little list of baby gear in that last post is really simplified. But that is the point I guess. It’s what I would say you really do NEED. The other things can be great to have, for convenience, or amusement for your child, etc. and of course, as your kid gets older the list of things grows when their wants or tastes come into play. (I plan on posting about toys and managing/controlling them taking over your life later, as I have Things To Say on this topic. I will talk more about baby toys there too.)

Also, to add to that post. The point was not “Thou shalt not buy excessive baby gear and plastic crap for your kids.” It’s unavoidable. It’s gonna happen. The point was to not feel the pressure to buy it. Get it if you want, sure, but don’t feel like one has to own a bouncy seat to parent. One does not.

Plus, as an aside. I have, or have had, ALL the excessive crap. I am trying to limit it. And, as I said, were I to do it again in a few years and repurchase for baby, I would do it differently from the get go.

And it is not, do you buy plastic or organic or don't you. Those kind of dividing lines in parenting make me tired. All the labels, are you green, are you mainstream, etc. Forget it. We are mommies trying to figure this shit out. You know? Pardon my french.

And, now, the fun part, as I know a few of you nice readers are in the baby way for the first time I thought I might share a more detailed list of my favorites, and expanded into some of the miscellaneous gear that is not essential but nice and/or convenient to have.

I call it my “best of baby things” list. [Note: I have not used some of this, just admired from afar. I am too cheap for some of it. Many things I reproduced on my own…but, in any case] Here goes:


Ultimate baby wrap/Maya wrap

Maya ring sling/or Hotsling type pouch (I loved my fleece pouch by Kangaroo Korner but just saw they have gone out of business!)

Jogging stroller – loved my simple Kolcraft for 1 kid, love my Babytrend double for 2

Miracle swaddle blanket, 2 (although your kid may or may not appreciate the swaddle, babycakes required it, babydear hated it)

3 cotton gowns, small (really like Under the Nile for these)

3 snap up sleepers, medium (Hanna Andersson are great)

2-3 old school fleece sleepers (I find mine used, nobody makes them like they used to!)

1-2 wool sleepers (I really really want one of these for next baby! er. um. or whatever.)

3-4 cotton/bamboo/silk shirts

3-4 cotton/bamboo/silk pants

Wool silk blend long sleeve onesie

Wool silk blend leggings

Amber teething necklace (read here how they work)

A couple little cutesie outfit for that inevitable church/grandmas house outing where your baby is expected to look particularly adorable. I have half a dozen little dresses for baby dear for this purpose. I gravitate to Baby Gap for this sort of thing.

Cotton hats 2-3

Knitted hat (SOOOO easy to make)

Smartwool socks, infant and baby size (I have and like)

Cotton socks (I confess to buying socks from Walmart)

Tights (this or Maggie brand are cute, but I was given several I like)

Knitted button up sweater, buy old school, make, have grandma make, or buy from Gap.

Disana wool leggings (I make my own), baby and toddler size

Disana wool overalls (I make my own), baby and toddler size

Wool romper

Wool/silk wrap

Danish wool jumpsuit (how I want this!)

Danish wool balaclava (umm, so dang cute, I tried to make one for baby dear and she refused to wear it)

Cashmere footie leggings, newborn size (always wanted to have or make, never had)

Cashmere blanket (never had, sniff.)

Quilt, get grandma or someone to make one. Every baby needs a quilt.

Large flannel swaddle blankets (NOT the Gerber cheap-o brand they aren’t big enough for a good swaddle, I made my own)

Cotton pilot cap (I like Hanna Andersson for this, we dressed baby dear in this hat from day one. I heart this hat) newborn and baby size

Hanna Andersson sock/moccasin things (great for indoor or carrides, etc, same as above. Got these for both kids and they are great) baby and toddler size

2 pacifiers (my kids would ONLY take two different brands, babies mouths need different shapes, my son wanted the Aveda kind, my daughter the Soothie kind – I wanted them both to use the all natural expensive rubber kind, they both refused)

Kleen Kanteen sippy cup and sports bottle (I confess to using plastic sippy cups, I understand they are Bad For Your Kid but…getting a plastic sippy cup chucked at you in the car is much more pleasant than a Kleen Kanteen)

Bamboo spoon and fork and little dish

Fleece lined bunting

Fleece lined baby Uggs/slippers

Soft sole leather shoes, 2 (Robeez type things, I make my own)

Soft sole fabric shoes, 2 (again, I make my own)

Arms Reach Co-Sleeper

Crib, Ikea models are nice and simple and affordable

Stokke wooden high chair (expensive, pretty, don’t have it) or Ikea plastic high chair (small, cheap. Have it. Love it.)

Contured changing pad, 2 covers

Also handy to have:

Bumbo seat. I used to tell people, absolutely buy one but upon reflection I have hardly used mine. Maybe if I had gotten the snap on trays they have for them now? Eh. Its sitting in my closet.

Baby monitor, being rather neurotic about babycakes sleep when he was little we have used our monitor nearly every night for four years. Simple is best, with multiple channel options though so you don’t end up listening in on the neighbor kids fighting with their parents over taking a bath or not.

Bouncy seat, I did use mine a lot. I prefer simple, with no gadgets.

Playmat. Our son adored his playmat, especially the mirror attachment, and would stare and coo at it. Little girl, not so much. Guess she would rather stare and coo and big brother. I did get her a new one from Ikea, so cute, and she did like it for a spell (brother's old one being covered in spit-up from his horribly spitty days.)

Bassinette I liked having a small one in the kitchen or living room for those early months so baby could sleep while I cooked, cleaned, read stories to big brother. But I am neurotic like that, as you should know by now.

Diapering - I plan a proper post on cloth diapering because I am so infatuated with it but for now, this list can suffice.

Prefolds, 1 dozen infant size, one dozen larger size

Thristies diaper covers, 1 newborn, 2 small, 2 medium, 2 large (I have many brands of covers but like these the best)

Hemp/fleece liners 6-8 (I have bought some and made many)

Stacinator wool cover - 2

Bamboo fleece or cotton fitted diapers, Thirsties 4-5 (I have made my own, bought a few)

Thirsties/BumGenious/Happy Heiny or some other pocket diaper 5-6 (the best one for you will depend on your babies body type, my fat chunk babies aren’t great with BG’s but if I had to pick one I do like the Thirsties the best, in terms of design/quality. I have one of each of these brands and have made many of my own, some more successfully than others.)

I also use wool leggings/woolies, whatever you want to call them, made by Disana (or yourself very very easily if you can cut up a wool sweater and sew a few seams!) wool leggings/pants can be used as a cover, especially if lanolized, which is easy to do. It breathes, clears up any rash in a jiffy (yes I just said jiffy, what of it?) and, well, its nice. I love my woolies. I have made more than a dozen, plus several pairs of kick ass wool overalls.

Nature Baby or 7th Generation disposable diapers. Yes, there is a time in a place for disposables. In fact, in our family we do disposables for night time, after a certain age my babies bladders just wet through cloth diapers no matter what combination I used. Also, I love Nature Baby but I do confess to using regular old Huggies or whatever when we can’t get to/afford the good all natural cotton kind, which is frequently.)

And that is my list...Ummm. What else... any other must have’s mommies? What are some of your favorite brands?

A word re baby clothing. I find it particularly irksome when babies are dressed up in jeans/dresses or other big peoples clothes. In my opinion babies should look like babies. I never put an oxford shirt on my 3 month old, or tiny jeans on my baby girl. I don’t like halter tops or bikini swimsuits for little baby girls. It just seems…wrong. Maybe because I myself am not a fan of jeans and/or fancy uncomfortable clothing, I figure, how can they possibly be comfortable for a tiny baby? My babies typically wear sleepers (yes even to church!) at home they often wear wool leggings (homemade) and a little cute shirt. We do have some dress up clothes for baby girl, how can one resist! Same goes for shoes. Babies need flexible soles to learn to walk. I make my own, but that is because I am cheap, there are a lot of great ones out there, leather or cloth. I broke down and bought a pair for baby dear, no time to sew really these days, just the generic Target brand. I don’t do decorative shoes for newborns, because again, it just looks wrong to me. Also, when babies have dangly fat legs hanging out of frilly dresses, in say, March (which is cold here) I feel like shouting, get that baby a blanket! Give her some Babylegs at least! (I don't actually shout though.) Also, shirts and onesies that say things like "Daddy's Spoiled Brat" or "Ladies Man" makes me kinda crazy. Really? Do you really want to encourage that? Ok. I am done.

Ok, but yes, the clothing you put on your child is of course a subjective choice, just as you might clothe yourself. So of course, no judgement. But one does have personal preferences...and as it IS my blog… (if I were the type I would put a smiley face with a little goofy sticking out tongue here to suggest my humorous tone but alas, I never use that one.) Also, I obviously live in the frozen north where wool is practical/required. I love wool. You living in Florida may not, of course, share my coveting of the boiled wool romper from Denmark. Ha.

Also, this is very much ideal. My reality is of course much more…umm, real. My kids wear whatever people give them, and gladly, and a few things bought by mama, fewer things bought new. Also little man loves his super hero shirts lately, he even has light up Ironman shoes. They are tacky but he LOVES them. I can’t wait to see how baby dear dresses herself down the line. She recently has fallen in love with shoes, her favorites being sparkly pink ballet slippers that she picked out herself. Lord help us. Hardly the classic European design I would dress them in! But hey, that is what my life is about, and this blog really, ideal and reality and the meshing thereof (insert smiley face guy).
Thursday, August 5, 2010

baby gear or, how Babies R' Us is taking over babyhood...(ha!)

babydear, in all her fat glory,
modeling an amber teething necklace.
I spent the first several months of pregnancy with babycakes-the-first absolutely obsessed with maternity wear.

“My clothes… They don’t fit?!.... I am getting fat?!..... ACK!”

So I was rather late to the game when it came to baby gear. Also we were broke, husband being in law school and me back from an adventure and trying to start a consulting business. And trying to prepare for a baby when one is broke is INCREDIBLY stressful. Especially for a Type A planner like myself.

True story re desperation of those times. My husband went to a casino when we were expecting babycakes and had no crib. He plays poker very well (husband, not the baby) and came home with $150 which we then used to go buy a crib at that mecca for expectant mommies, Babies R’ Us (…a crib which we never really used - refer to blog post above - and which has since been recalled due to its apparently dangerous drop sides.)

True story.

Gambled for baby crib.


Makes me laugh just thinking about how neurotically I planned that darn nursery. I spent HOURS pouring over Pottery Barn Kids website (the apparent gold standard in planning nursery for yoga pants wearing mommies like myself) I would never have that glorious nursery. But dammit, I was gonna try.

Our first trip to Babies R’ Us was like entering heaven/purgatory. ALL THE BABY THINGS IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD YOU COULD EVER WANT….and I have no money.

But, of course, you must have it all, right? Wipe warmer? Poor little baby bummies must have this! Changing table? But of course! Crib? A given! And preferably the kind that morphs into toddler bed/adult headboard because of course your teenage son is gonna wanna sleep on the same bed his ENTIRE LIFE. And the list of must-haves goes on and on and on. Baby gym. Play mat. Exersaucer. Bouncy seat. Bouncy Swing. Door jumper seat. Car seat. Stroller for infant. Stroller for jogging. Stroller for toddler. Umbrella stroller for travel.

Then the nursery decorations. Which scheme to choose? Avant garde? Straight up Winnie the Pooh? Princess? Butterflies? Choo-choo-trains? Farmyard? A side table lamp. A rocking chair. A table. A dresser. Coatrack. Pictures.

And then the clothes. Oh my Lord the clothes. The sleepers and the onesies and the teeny tiny socks and the teeny tiny hats and the shoes and the teeny tiny jeans and the dresses and the butt covers with ruffles (love those!) and the rompers and the etc etc etc.

You don’t just need a rattle and a blanket. You need serious gear to raise a baby in today’s world. Why?

Well, it is required.

It is, frankly, overwhelming.

My God. I need ALL THIS? Of course I do. I must have it now if I am to be a quality graduate-degreed parent. I must must MUST.

We walked in, my husband and I, and timidly approached the registry desk. I tried to showcase my belly to its best advantage.

“See, I am here. I have a belly. Give me a gun. Let’s register.”

Registering for baby gear is a rite of passage for the yoga-pant-wearing set. The reality was I knew very few people that would actually go to a Babies R Us, print out my registry, and purchase accordingly. Maybe my mother-in-law? Seriously though there are no Babies R Us’ in my parents small town where my mother would soon be hosting a shower for me (so that the ladies of the church could ooh and ahh over tiny baby things purchased at the local Target, which is of course why grandmothers throw baby showers).

But still, I wanted to register. More to track the things I wanted to buy for our little blessing.

We walked around and daydreamed away our nursery. This hundreds of dollars crib. That classic wooden highchair. This stroller. That leather rocking arm chair. Hundreds of dollars that we didn’t have but, gosh but that little gun makes it feel real. “Click.” It’s mine! It’s on my list!

Of course I had no idea at the time but Babies R’ Us represents the required gear only for middle class babies. Not till I went to the nearby galleria with the “fancy” baby stores did I realize one could spend $500+ on a stroller, let alone $250 like the one I coveted. Oh, the clothes in these stores! Oh my. Being in the baby time of life I still peruse these stores. Last time I was in one the sales clerk went crazy over my babydear when I said we might be in the market for a sun hat. $50 sun hats, I kid you not. I was all encouraging her to try them on babydear, secretly plotting how I might reproduce one on my little Singer at home. (If I am successful I will post a pic here. Such a cute design.)

In any case. Reality loomed as my due date approached. Also babycakes was a boy baby, which meant no light pink walls and subtle flower theme that I had been planning for him. So I retooled the nursery ideas and came up with red, blue, yellow flower print pillows (baby boys appreciate flowers too!) and pillows that said “sweetpea” and “baby bug” (I cut out the lettering and sewed in on myself. I literally CRIED over those pillows, cutting the fabric wrong, sewing seams backwards, etc. etc.)

I found my ideal side sleeper bed in a Once Upon A Child (man I love that store). Purchased the crib, by above methods, as well as a carseat, bought a rug at Ikea (wooly and nice) found a rocker at a garage sale ($20!), found a used changing table at another garage sale (it even matched the crib!) and then I did the whole closet organizers, baskets for diapering supplies, hanging wall shelf for cutesie knick knacks, etc. etc. I was also given a used playmat, bassinette, bouncy seat, highchair, play piano, and more.

And then the clothes. Boy clothes are not as irrisistable and I was fortunate to be given a lot of used things. But man, I stressed over not having enough onesies, wanting Baby Gap layette sets, etc. etc.
So. Four years later, were I to do it again…(say when i have a surprise baby at 40 and am living in a yurt, i really want to do that actually, live in a yurt, although a baby at 40 would be fine too, insert smiley face guy) Well, here is the deal. Decorating a nursery is really fun. But babies don’t need all that. Mama needs it. Nesting and all that maybe.

My recommended baby gear for a new mommy?

A wool fleece, baby lies on it, wool keeps baby warm/cool (wool is fab like that) wool repels pee/puke, perfect.

A sling or pouch (I LOVE babywearing gear. Ergo. Sling. Pouch. Love it. Love them all, except baby bjorn. It kills your back. Get an Ergo or sling.)

A stack of prefolds, 3 or 4 covers, some woolie pants (more posting to be done on cloth diapering later. I LOVE cloth diapers.)

A couple gowns, booties/socks, a hat (onesies are highly overrated in my book. I never use them. With cloth diapering I find that they prevent easy diaper checks and they lead to leaks as they get caught under legholes, wick moisture onto jammies, etc.)

A nice cashmere blanket, a quilt, some flannel swaddle blankets

A countered changing pad and cover that you can lie on a bed or floor to change diapers.

An amber teething necklace (a Scandanavian traditional remedy for teething, amber is said to warm against the skin and absorb into the body to relieve pain. Plus they are DANG cute)

Ummm…what else?

Maybe a small bassinette or Moses basket for safely placing baby down for a nap while you are in the kitchen or folding laundry or to prevent older brother from tackling you while you lie peacefully sleeping on mama’s bed….

Of course, you need to have a carseat. (we loved our Graco Safeseat. Affordable and, well, safe.)

And as far as the incidentals…I literally stressed out when babycakes hit around 3 months and we didn’t have any real toys in the house. My God, I thought to myself, how is he ever going to get mental stimulation! We have no doo-dads hanging from his seat! We have no flashy light swings with Elmo reciting the alphabet! How the hell is he gonna succeed in the world!?

But really, your voice is as much stimulation as they need. Maybe a wooden rattle or a teething ring. A soft wool ball with a bell inside. Soft, natural, simple toys are what I go for now for new little ones.

And seriously, that is it. Sure, strollers and playmats and highchairs are great but really, really not needed.

The whole Babies R Us picture of what you HAVE TO HAVE for baby’s arrival is really…ok, I will say it…. it really is corporatizing childhood, babyhood itself, you know? And how wrong is that? All the junk flashy lights exersaucer/bounce seats (I have them all, no judgement) is like all the same and we are shoving our little innocent sensory overloaded babies in front of these things, overwhelming them from day one. And some of it is truly disturbing to me. Bottle propping gadgets? A beating heart teddy bear for your baby to sleep with (instead of yours?!) And then later come the toys, like an avalanche of plastic made from God knows what tainted crap.

Suddenly we find our houses flooded with this stuff and we try to make sense of our child’s room, the playroom, not to mention the junk that overflows into the rest of the living space until it looks like Babies R Us threw up on our house and left us to wallow in it.

Ok. That was way harsh (hello, Clueless quote!) but it does make me kinda mad.

Babies need love. Arms. A breast. When we get caught up in the hype we lose out on that simplistic state of being that our new little ones bring to our world.

Simplicity is a beautiful thing when you are a parent, to be cherished, for soon your child will be whining about that horrible looking plastic, talking McDonalds toy and you will buy it for him (although you will then perhaps chuck it in a month when you find it broken under the couch – more on that topic later.)

Next up: Dunno…still writing.
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