Sunday, July 31, 2011

Let's Eat: Easy softserve ice cream

Unfortunately I have a sweet tooth which includes a major affair with ice cream, or rather soy or rice ice cream and any other baked good. Portion control I know not. Lo and behold this recipe for a 1 ingredient ice cream caught my eye on The Kitchn and it was GOOD and Easy plus it eliminates all that packaging that comes with store bought ice cream. No added sugar or anything, unless you decide to take it there. I added a few carob chips I admit but even eating it plain is super satisfying. It's doubtful I'll add any store bought ice cream to my cart again.


How To Make Creamy Ice Cream with Just One Ingredient!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Got Milk? Part II

The world of donor milk is riddled with dicey intentions and red hot opinions. I'm continuing to research options for my excess and learn more via the various forums and blogs of nursing moms etc.  

Amazing how an honest intention to help others can get mangled beyond recognition along the way. 

I do see the logic in donating to the International Breast milk Project (IBMP) and will continue the application process however, I also see the basis of a valid struggle in accepting the idea that companies profit on fortified human milk products taken from donations.  

Based on what I've read is that IBMP and its affiliated processing company are reaching mothers who cannot provide their child's nutritional needs and I do understand that there would be costs in screening, transporting, packaging and distributing the gathered milk...
In contrast, I did find this thread on Diaper Swappers eye opening and trust me I'm definitely going hmmm...

Its all such a mishmash of voices and I just want to have resolve the answer to a simple question: I have extra milk, who best meets my intentions for donating it?
So as of today I am now officially separating my frozen supply into 2 categories: Winter's reserve and donation.  The donation milk will be stored in bags (I use bottles for our own supply), labeled, dated, frozen flat and stored at the bottom of a deep freezer until I can sort out whose hands it is meant to land in.

Milk bank alternatives that have caught my eye are Milkshare and EatsonFeets so it will be either helping a local mom via either of those resources or IBMP.

At the end of the day its an effort to make use of a valuable resource that would otherwise be dumped. I am not making a point to pump extra to meet the ongoing need of a recipient baby or stockpiling unnecessary exccess for the freezer.

If only it was not so complicated to get rid of!

Got Milk?

In our case, yes, way more than we need due to what felt like a sudden and permanent boycott by Winter of the bottle last month and a joyful acceptance of the cup.  At her lead when I am away she's now drinking 2-4 ounces from the side of her sippy cup (top off) and otherwise is happily toddling down the path of solids and nurses more intensely at home in the evenings and during the night.  An exciting transition the 12-14 ounces I was bringing home from work are piling up to a heap in my fridge to the point that I've run out of containers and have decreased to 2 pump sessions.  Since I am gone almost 11 hours during the work week I still pump to keep supply and for relief but with the decrease in sessions I'm still bringing home about 10-12 ounces.  If you do the math you can see how we are on the road to being flooded out of our home unless I just start dumping and I...just...can't.

I was thrilled when US national news starting broadcasting about the famine in the Horn of Africa (for which various humanitarian and international journalists have been sending out warning signals for MONTHS to what appeared to be a cry out to deaf ears until the official declaration last week of FAMINE by the United Nation but nevermind better late than never...).  Night after night there is now an in your face reminder of the daily desperation these people are experiencing and each report disturbs me and breaks my heart.  Human suffering in all its forms bothers me immensely but now as a mother seeing children in such a violent state of distress rips me to the core.  I admit, I can't even watch the video reports I stay informed by reading and taking in the special BBC reports that have been released every couple of days.

I am impoverished for time and with more of it just maybe I could tackle more on the unending I'd like to do that list that runs like adding machine tape in my mind.  Looking at the haunting images of the famine babies has sent my mine clicking as to how as a nursing mother I could ever contribute in some way.  I want to continue the research on the ideas I have but in the meantime I've looked for milk donation bank that I can at least contribute my own excess to now. 

The International Breast Milk Project has gotten my attention and I am currently working my way through the application process and organizing deep freeze storage to handle my donations until everything is in place for it to be sent.  Based on where I am now the excess milk will come from what I express during the day at work to maintain my supply less the few ounces for Winter's morning cereal and cup to drink at school.  I do not plan to pump at any other time beyond that so I will be able to collect 8 ounces per day for the time being.  It adds up and the liquid gold will do more for a baby in need than as a thirst quencher for my kitchen drain.

Waste not, want not.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Table for two...

I share my mother's love of dinnerware and while we have different tastes each of our cupboards contain a beloved mish mash of place settings and linens. We've sent platters and tablecloths back and forth like Frisbees, and each holiday I stand with sincere interest by her side taking in the draft tablescape. I've increased the execution of this ritual in my own home by carrying it out for every meal, even if its just a snack. I make all efforts to get a plate, grab and fold a napkin, fill a glass of water and SIT DOWN to eat whatever it may be, even at work (sans cloth napkin).

I learned the consequences of poor eating habits shortly after I stumbled out of college, 4 years done in 3, a part-time job on the weekend, internship then full-time job during the week, little sleep and a nutritive reserve based in...gawd it was so poor I'm ashamed to even type it. Shoveling food in my mouth as a second thought on my way to whatever my first thought was or sitting numb at the end of the day rummaging through take out bags while watching Food Network created a sadly distant divide in my understanding of food and its important connection to well-being. By then I was reduced to a mysterious increase in recurring black outs and fatigue until a discovery of macrobiotics changed my life and the way I approached buying and consuming food. You are indeed what you eat and whole foods prepared with care increased the desire to set a nice table to enjoy it at.

Now that Winter has started solids I set up her place as well. The tiny plastic spoon, sippy cup and mason jar bowl is step 1 in establishing her place at the family table. As she grows older there's a hope that mealtimes could be something to look forward to, a solid start to the beginning of the day and a chance to let down and share the days horrors and highs. 

I realized that if I don't get into the habit now, as with many things, make the adjustments to include her at meals, the more effort it will require to incorporate sitting and eating together into our daily schedule. 

Time is quickly passing us by so at a minimum from this point onwards it will be a table for two...please.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer Reading List

One of my favorite childhood memories is summer and the oodles of time it offered for reading.  My mother would take me to a local bookstore named Paul's (who sadly had to close shortly after the arrival of chain bookstore) and we would get everything on the booklist that he had on the shelves.  She would also take me to the library where they kept the public school recommended reading list and I would supplement my list with those.  Hauling home the heavy package of crisp new books and my stack from the library was a taste of heaven on earth.  At my most intensive moments I could finish a book in a day and I would find nooks to retreat to, both inside and out, and just melt into the world contained within each book.

These days my reading time is found primarily during the week when I'm commuting and at night any time that may be left is spent reading to Winter.  It's really incredible to be able to revisit childhood favorites and discover new ones. I did start reading from day one with a book at night but now that Winter is getting older we go for longer periods as her interest increases.  There's an intimacy in these moments that continues to grow as her little hand grips mine and she stares intently at the page sometimes reaching out to explore it with her hands.  When she laughs at certain moments or smiles it feels like another window into learning who she is and its a thrill to see.  Now that the weather is nice I've tried to make an effort to change up our reading nest location by hauling a blanket and bag of books outdoors so that we can sit in the park nearby.
These are a few of the titles in our summer stack:

Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans (haven't gotten into the ones co-authored yet)

Ladybug Girl series by Jacky Davis and David Soman

Fancy Nancy series by Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser

If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond

Baby Bug (magazine - comes every other month)

Any Caldecott winner

Mommy Hugs by Karen Katz

Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahey and Polly Dunbar

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood and Don Wood

Tingalayo by Raffi

My First Spanish Word Book by Angela Wilkes

Anything by Sandra Boynton

Friday, July 8, 2011

House Beautiful

When the world begins to swirl I eventually can be found filing and reorganizing in response, alone and protected by a self erected wall of silence and contemplation. Retreat mode in full force.

It has been so busy that all around me I see elements of my life slowly lagging behind and in some cases coming to a full stop, intentional and not. Our laundry has gone without attention for a duration I can't utter here. Its existence occurs to me only when I'm asked by my mother where a particular outfit is for my daughter. Naturally these inquiries have increased and I've half-heartedly pointed her in the direction of Winter's wardrobe and dresser to search in vain several times only to remember when she turns to look at me with a puzzled look that whatever it was is likely in the wash pile. Our home is in need of a deep clean, the kitty sniffs with disdain before entering her box hissing to herself at my delay in changing the litter.  I have a growing stack of partially read books piled up, our frozen milk supply is down to 3 bottles, I have not written, studied, intentionally exercised or cooked a meal beyond 3 ingredients in weeks.

I could go on but will spare you the full scene.

A dire need to switch gears...

This month's publication of House Beautiful is Living Large in Small Spaces. There were several homes featured that had ideas I wanted and could try out in my own space. Just spending a few hours undoing areas where piles of stuff and junk had begun to collect and turn hodge podge then editing them and recreating a more organized less cluttered look started freeing my own mental space and is defrosting the block I've been stuck in. I've attacked my desk, part of the kitchen and did my weekly run of Winter's room editing clothes, toys, etc. Its incredible the amount of stuff we can accumulate and for me its a wonder because we have only 2 rooms and I still find excess. And yes, small space means  a busy life is more in your face because there's little room to hide but I like that it forces me to keep things up if I want to maintain a nice home for us which I do. The more I edit down the better it feels as I'm realizing if I have what I absolutely love and enjoy around me my space mentally, physically and otherwise will be freer and more enjoyable.

By the way, I have to say I miss my big bed, as you may know I had downsized to a twin so that I could use our apartment as a studio for myself and then let Winter have the bedroom as her own sleep and play space. While I love brownstone living in our case charm came with uneven floors. The twin combined with the permanent tilt is especially grating...its actually frocking annoying and I've found myself longingly staring at photos of sumptuous beds as a result. The studios featured in House Beautiful featured a full size bed and I'm tempted to make a go at incorporating this into my own space. Based on the layout I have now and thought worked best the bed is on the most noticeable part of the uneven floor, real smart, I know. But one of the designers in HB said a bed looks best full on, I agree, and a preference for comfort vs. space. Tough to deliver but try I will.

Of course now I need to wait until Winter's ready for a twin to justify the expenditure but in the meantime I'm going to plot my dream.

So another apartment rewind in the works and in the meantime I will continue my House Beautiful clean-up, find the bottom of my various stacks of mail and unused cookbooks, brush off my yoga mat then tackle the laundry first thing tomorrow AM as my diaper count is now down to less than 5. Scary.

The skies above are clear again...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

To thine own true

I was lured into the world of Jamie Oliver via The Naked Chef and 10 years on in my adoration of all things relevant to local food, sustainable eating and a slower approach to the way food is brought to the table he is one of the few cooks I continue to follow.

OK OK, I admit never once cooked anything out of my copy of Jamie's Dinners though each time I would grab the book I would carefully flick through the beautifully rustic photos of various dishes wanting to recreate one but the effort of translating either the ingredients or measurements into what I had on hand always seemed to be just too much. It wasn't really, in retrospect.

Lately I've watched bits and pieces of Jamie at Home, donned in wellies complete with rolled up jeans and a from the garden tousled look Jamie conducts the entire show as if he's set-up a kitchen right there in his garden shed with few kitchen gadgets in sight. The  produce and meats are so freshly procured I spend the entire show staring at the screen with a 3rd eye look of confusion. However a few days ago I caught an episode whose theme was various salad greens.  From my distant perch on the couch it looked like arugula, radish leaves, and other random mixed greens, a hunk of crusty day old bread crumbled, grilled Italian sausage, cucumber and a light oil/vinegar dressing. Or so I thought. Upon closer inspection what looked like sausage may instead have been some odd vegetable but who knows as signs lately have been pointing me to the nearest eye doctor given the gradual dimming of my once crystal clear vision. What I do know is watching him scoop and mix that salad reminded me of the joy of light eating in summer. I thrive on dinner salads and now with Winter in tow entree salads are a great way to have a quick, hearty, freshly made dinner or lunch.

Here's my knock-off Jamiesque rustic summer salad:

Seasonal greens
Saute or grilled veggie Italian Sausage (I like the Tofurky brand)
Toasted and crumbled bread of your choice (I like rye or sourdough)
Roughly chopped tomato
Roughly chopped cucumber
Extra virgin olive oil
Vinegar of choice or juice of fresh lemon
Fresh pepper

(I prefer to mix my oil and vinegar separately then add in)

Lightly mix


Monday, June 6, 2011

Do U Promise?

The educational funding philosophy, pay now dream later, is one I came across when researching how best to plan and save for education expenses. With the sky rocketing costs of college, ever increasing primary education tuition and the pretty penny asked for infant and nursery school programs, it can be daunting.

For my own household the focus is to direct my resources towards the primary learning years: pre-k to 12th grade tuition costs with a nominal amount towards college. The idea though of not putting anything aside for college did not feel right for me personally so I opened a 529 account for Winter with a contribution equal to the maximum tax deduction as being a good benchmark to go by. If I receive any gift checks I also transfer those to her college fund but otherwise I'm not putting every spare penny in it. A friend of mine joked that at the rate our country is going with educational costs, it will only hold the spot.

Lol err...

Because of all the educational disparities and the burden of costs if you do want to try to go other routes, education has become one of my ongoing soundtracks...which schools, how to pay for it, how to plan for it, you name and I can often be found drifting off somewhere and somehow referencing this now beloved subject. Beloved it may be, it requires some sort of planning to proceed as I hope to. This all goes back to that post on the long term effects of decision making.

Because most parents only have so many resources it is nice to find come across other ways to make sure you are accessing all there is you can to support you in whichever goal you may have.

In this case I started reading more about U Promise. You spend at approved vendors either via through their site, with the card, using U Promise coupons or via the restaurant membership and a % of the amount spent is credited to your account. I had an account set up a few years ago but truthfully it sat empty and unused until recently. Mainly because the concept seemed tedious for little return. Alas, I found myself drifting back because in the past year I've made quite a few purchases as a result of Winter in a variety of areas and I wondered if somehow any of it could offer free money for our educational pot.

Now, I am not a finance guru or advisor, to each is his own decision with regards to saving etc for educational expenses. What I will say is I see how you could use U Promise in a way that is not cost effective and I see how it can be used in a way that is rational and truly contributory.

Here's what I do in our case and for each person it is different based on where you live and how you shop etc.

I did NOT sign up for the credit card nor do I use credit cards for purchases.

I registered my debit card and drug store card.

I shop online for quite a few things and I did see several of the stores I visit often. Each time I want to buy something that is related to either of these stores I go to the UPromise website and link to them through the site after I log in then continue my purchase. Since it doesn't matter what card I use there really is no other step and I am not searching for stuff to buy to earn the reward but just getting the reward for what I decide to buy naturally. Also both of the Thai restaurants within a few blocks of us are in the restaurant circle so whenever I do eat there I use my debit card, which I already would anyway, to receive the reward.

I'm sure there are ways to rack up rewards faster etc but in the end you might become the problem as opposed to contributing to the end point.

With each store you get a % of the purchase at point of sale credited to your account and then you can let the money accumulate and request a check, link it to a student loan or 529 account or invest it.  I linked the UPromise account I had to Winter's 529 and it will automatically transfer the $ earned at the end of each quarter.

Some people manage to accumulate a few hundred a year or practically nothing depending on how they use the account. I do see we will earn something of substance and its that much more in the kettle.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Eco-tip: Do it yourself dried fruit snacks

I try to buy the majority of my food from the farmer's market and have found myself nibbling and subsequently purchasing each week the various dried food sundries I've found there. 

Apricots, cherries, blueberries, strawberries...At $2.50/pack its a fair price for honest food but at the rate I'm consuming them I've started thinking there has to be another way...

And indeed there is.

I've just eaten two handfuls of homemade dried strawberries before they were barely cooled. They were that good.

So here we go:

Wash fruit and cut in slices or leave whole (e.g. blueberries or strawberries)

Heat oven to its LOWEST setting (mine is 170)

Put fruit onto baking sheet and "bake" until chewy not dried

Cool then Eat!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I started reading More magazine off and on a year ago attracted by the substance its title indicated. That it features women 'of a certain age' on its covers and speaks to them in its editorial made it all the more of interest. This month included an article in the memoir section by Krista Bremer called Libya: What I wore to the Revelation. In it she talks about her visit there several years ago to meet her in-laws and the culture clash and embrace she experienced. Towards the end she reflects on the gaggle of women whose close confines she remained in for the greater portion of her trip, I'll spare writing out the whole thing but these are the lines I found myself lingering over:

They would never experience the freedoms I enjoyed...They would never negotiate six weeks' maternity leave with a boss who viewed that arrangement as generous, or leave their tiny babies with a stranger for eight hours while they sat in an office across town, taking breaks to pump breast milk in the employee bathroom....They would never know the persistent sense of inadequacy or the creeping exhaustion that comes from doggedly chasing the elusive dream that women can be everything at once: sexy and youthful, independent and financially successful, extraordinary mothers and wives. And yet during my time in Libya I missed this chase most of all: the working, driving, shopping and exercising, the exhilarating freedom to pursue my endless desire for more.

I'm not on board with the cloistered and controlled lifestyle of the women she describes but in reading her liberation speak last line I find myself thinking...really? I'm not so eager to board the attainment trip she's talking about either. I never anticipated the impact my maternity leave would have on my outlook when it came to the firm grip I had previously maintained in the rat race. The complete disconnect the time away from life as I formally knew it left me with a louder hum of hmmmms. I do not miss the chase and I've seriously questioned my idea of 'more'.

I can't just stumble off the track entirely, or at least let me say I chose not to. What I am doing is resisting. A resistance that is at times silent, exhilarating, painful, isolating, empowering and frightening in its shifts of what supported my sense and need for security all in an attempt to find a balance I can live with.

There are many things about our society that, in my experience so far, have proven support of families in all their forms is wanting, especially mothers. That said our society does stand apart in at least one diminishing but hopefully not dying distinction and that is the freedom and choices we have access to which allow us to more easily than others attain the lives we want to live.

I embrace that freedom and am chasing it intensely.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Once upon a potty

I admit when I first read through the concept of EC (Elimination Communication) and diaper free methods I scoffed and kept it moving, the cotton diaper aisle was as far as I planned to tread when it came to 'alternative' diapering options. Somehow though I did find myself reading more about EC'ing which basically is learning your baby's potty need cues and putting them on a baby potty seat to catch the results. It seemed logical and sometimes the more off topic something is the more intrigued I become.

However practicality won over my curiosity for its two simple reasons, time consuming.

Now here we are month 7 and counting and curious developments are taking place in the world of output (aka poop / pee):

With more solids it has become more, well, solid. I find it interesting that more often than not mothers start cloth diapering when their babies were older and not as newborns. I found threads few and far between that discussed cloth as early as the hospital and several cloth diapering moms advised not to start until after the meconium passes or later because I wouldn't feel like doing all that in the early weeks plus it would ruin my lovely diapers. Naturally I didn't understand because the concept of keeping the diapers pristine seemed contradictory, I used liners and that was all I needed to combat the meconium phase. The water soluble state of ebf poop and the scentless pee has been the easiest maintenance, even the blowouts and meconium followed by first weeks period of a dozen diapers a day. Messy, yes, but dump whole lot in clothes bag, wash and diaper looks like nothing dramatic, if at all, happened.

Now we have a mud like consistency and sometimes formed output. Since she's still breastfed I suppose that's the reason for this intense err...situation, we have in clean-up. We use biodegradable diaper liners for her pocket diapers because of all the aquaphor we have to use on her skin but I see these are ideal also for this more extensive poop period and onwards. Once soiled the liners are pulled and tossed in the toilet. I've eyed my diaper sprayer and I see this is possibly going to come in handy now too. I'm unsure of the combo of rinse and/or use liners approach but we'll see. My understanding is that once the poop becomes more solid the common steps are to shake the diaper into the toilet, spray with an enzyme like Bac-out or similar to fight stains then toss in laundry bin until wash day. I see our routine is changing but I'm determined to see this through.  

Cue in Bjorn potty, the sweet mini commode now installed our bathroom. While I never did the EC I was seeing the signs of when she might be going. It’s a hit or miss but the same cues that told me she was wet etc. are the ones I honed in on and am seeing more of especially now with this change in consistency. I've also noticed that instead of cleaning up a wet/night drenched diaper that she has been dry and then starts to go only after I start the changing/dress process in the morning so these are the signs amongst other reasons to introduce the potty. My mother, thank the lord, has been a wonderful no nonsense resource in the potty training world. We went to the store together and she suggested I bring Winter. We then pulled out the potties available and let her pick. And pick indeed she did, it was clear which one seemed most comfortable for her. I now immediately put her on the potty once she wakes up and I let her hang out there for about 10 minutes but not so long that she gets agitated or cries. Nothing has made it in so far but as time passes and we get a routine going I do see how eventually the little throne will catch some sort of output.

Wish us luck.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Birth Matters

I had the good fortune to be in town this afternoon in time to attend a workshop at Philadelphia University with Ina May Gaskin who was in town supporting Womencare in its efforts to expand birth options to local women. She has a new book called Birth Matters which I've only just begun to read this evening and it was pretty special to be able to hear her speak in person.

I came across this legendary midwife via her book Spiritual Midwifery when I was browsing in the library looking for any books I could find on pregnancy. I did not understand the significance of Ina May's work in the modern natural childbirth movement or the impact she has made on bringing further awareness and respect to the birth experience but after reading her book and Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent my outlook was changed for the better. Ina May showed us several birth videos including an incredible one of an elephant mother's birth and another of a birth at Attica Zoological Park (love the 'doula' helping and the mom's upside down position). She talked about the fact that we human women are the only species who has to be taught to do something we are naturally made to do. There was also an overview of birth history and her birth experience and what led her to become a midwife.

The unresolved question Ina May shared today that most touched home with me was she asked why is it that motherhood is held as something not so important in our society. 

The need for natural birth education, the return to women being able to make informed choices regarding their births and subsequently greater support for mothers is issues that I feel especially devoted to.  Ina May's gentle yet matter of fact rolling thunder approach in speaking made me want to spend entire afternoon with this breathing treasure of information and inspiration.

So for today, recommended reading for all, if you can find any time to spare one day, is any book by Ina May Gaskin. You will be shocked, mystified, inspired and empowered by the time you are through.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A little more, a little less

I go through Winter's closet and drawers every other week to weed out anything too small, no longer used etc. The steady flow of bags going to donation, to Craig's List and Freecycle has left me with plenty of opportunities to take stock of what was a waste (for us) and what worked so far.

If I had to do it over again, here's my list of a little more a little less:

1) Knitted 'going home' outfit for the hospital
In my euphoria I did succumb to the picture lady before check out and a sweeter looking gender neutral outfit, instead of the prison getup I had on hand, would have been ideal. Which brings me to...

2) A white/cream starter layette
I searched high and lo for gender neutral newborn clothing but there was very little to pull from. Now that I know the various baby clothing brands with more depth perhaps I would have done better but even still having a few more outfits upon arrival home would have been helpful. In retrospect I should have just gotten a layette of all white and cream to start.

3) More bibs
I eyeballed our initial stash of approx. 20 and actually thought that was too much. Little did I know Winter rivaled Old Faithful and until she was about 5 months having closer to 50 on hand would have been the most convenient.

4) Receiving blankets, can't have too many
I've actually used them as nighttime diapers, an extra layer for the bed, the changing table, the boppy, the floor, as a nursing cover, as a wipe, as a towel and the list goes on.

5) Forget the diaper bag
In my case aside from the newborn period the diaper bag has been collecting dust for a good 4+ months. I had gotten 2 others, one to use with my carrier and another I used as my pump bag and I've abandoned those to. I now use my purse to carry my pump and supplies and a regular canvas tote when we go out on the weekends etc for longer periods of time. The tote was $20 on Etsy and though not waterproof etc it is washable. I could have saved the $100 spent and closet space on the other bags had I known this.

6) Snuggle nest
I thought I needed this for co-sleeping and it proceeded to collect dust in the closet for about 6 months until I found another mother who wanted it. Winter's spot of choice is right next to me, no special mini bed needed.

7) Any jumper with feet over 3 months
Completely annoying when you have a long baby with larger feet. I avoid these at all costs.

8) Newborn clothing with snaps
Wished I had more, so convenient.

9) Pacifiers
Boycotted in our home upon sight. I offered, she wasn't interested. More $$$  wasted in getting different ones for her to try.

10) Reusable nursing pads I really enjoyed the Lanacare danish wool ones for the beginning and I should have gotten 2 pair and PLENTY of wool wash to begin with and called it a day.
Instead I tried other brands and did not ever have enough wash or pads to keep them up as often as I needed which resulted in my using the cloth wipes. Not a bad thing but between our cloth diaper wipes and the danish wool pads as a nice back-up that was all I needed.

11) Nursing bras
MAJOR waste in my case. I got one of the nicer brands spending $50+ and a cheaper one around $20 both were uncomfortable and just downright bizarre. The concept seemed necessary and an ideal coping mechanism but it wasn't for me. I'm sure if I kept testing I would have found ones that worked but I started wearing my own usual bras and have never looked back. I don't have the fancy snaps etc but I just fold down and that's that. I'm sure all the handling is wearing them down faster but its a small price to pay for a return to comfort and normalcy.

Just a few observations on the look back.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Simple Graces

For both encouragement and insight I became very interested in looking at the schedules of other working mothers as a way to further organize my own routine so I too could walk the tightrope that is the work/life balance. I also found it helpful as a building block to understanding pumping schedules, unique though they are, as I was not around anyone who was actively pumping at work.

This may seem overly detailed but somewhere out there it might be of help to a mother pressed for time who could use encouragement knowing that she is NOT alone, she CAN do it and anything you set your mind to as a priority can remain that way if you're organized.

So here is our schedule (typical workday) at present:

5AM - Mama wakes up!

5AM-5:15/5:30AM - pump (for freezer stash or to add to any shortages prior day)
5:30-5:45AM - shower/get ready
5:45AM/6AM - pull out lunch, freezer packs, finish packing purse and dress
(sometimes I am also blending a smoothie or cooking rice)
5:45AM - Winter wakes up! (or Mama gets her up)
6-6:15AM  - get Winter ready / grandma comes in!
6:15-6:20AM - grandma prepares bottles, Winter nurses, grandma/mama talk
6:25-6:35AM - drive to train station,spend time together in car
6:46AM - train leaves!
8:35AM - arrive at work, sterilize pump parts, organize lunch, fill water bottles
9:30AM - 1st pump break
12:15PM - 2nd pump break / eat lunch / work / check on Winter
2:30PM - 3rd pump break
3:40PM - run/walk to subway
4:03PM - train home!
5:35PM - touch down, grandma/grandpapa's house to get Winter (nurse on cue until departure next morning)
6-6:30PM - grandpapa drives us home / we visit briefly
6:30-8:30PM - cook/eat dinner, pack bag for next day, measure milk, change into PJ's, use sling to continue nursing as needed and shift Winter from floor, chair, rocker etc. story time!
7:30-9PM - Winter dozes, goes to crib. Mama scrambles to finish above!
9-11PM - quiet time! reading, movie, writing, studying, house chores, pumping
11-4:49AM - nurse 1-2x as needed, sometimes more sometimes less (no crying or outburst due to co-sleeping)
5AM - we start again!

You'll notice 2 things missing from the above that will drive any mother's limited amount of time into the ground. Laundry and bottle sterilizing.

Wanted to note that as of now I wash my diapers and handle clothing laundry on Thursday night and Sunday afternoon. The diapers that come home from daycare stay with Winter's grandma who handles pick-up/drop-off. Grandma tackles the diaper bag and replenishes (including sterilizing the bottles) so that the next morning my job is simply to provide her with the milk. We fell into this routine naturally because both grandmama and daycare use pocket diapers so she can do one big load as she pleases and I wash my flats and fitteds at the end of the week. We've stashed a reserve of clothes at her grandparents so that the only laundry that builds over the week is the outfit she comes home in and my own. Since I personally have not ever used a bottle with Winter this also reduced us shuttling bottles back and forth. Baby food I make on the weekend and freeze, then give to grandma in batches every few days. Winter has fresh food at night and on the weekends with me.

Now, moment of silence.

The reality is, every mom once she unloads all that she does in a single day has a schedule that asks the world of her and then some. What I have learned in listening to the various schedules and methods of juggling is that we all need support both verbally, practically and otherwise. I've heard repeatedly that you should find a way to do something small for yourself, each day, which brings me to what I call simple graces.

My simple graces are found on my train ride home. I sit, stare at out at the world passing by me as the train pulls through the landscape like a chariot and it is the most calming, mind numbing, meditative state I've managed to find for myself and I embrace the peace. I find simple grace in the peace of my home. I may be a party of 1 but my home is a calm, warm and peace filled environment. Less is more. I find grace in the meaningful moments gained with my parents who, after 15 years of living in different states, short visits and a rapport relegated to e-mail and phone calls, I now see morning and night. I find grace in the few but intensive friendships that have tangled even tighter with love and protection around me, and now my daughter, as we weathered yet another life change together. My grace is in each new person Winter and I meet in our new home that shows some small act of kindness.

My grace is in coming home and finally feeling fulfilled.

I am a devoted follower of the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh and he has a wonderful book called Present Moment Wonderful Moment. Its mindful verses for mundane tasks like brushing your teeth, washing your hands and other simple encounters.

Here are fragments from the last pages of the book, all of which I have found to be true:

We can practice beginning anew at any moment of our lives. As humans, we make mistakes. Without these mistakes, there would be no way to learn to be more accepting and compassionate. When your life is meaningful, happiness becomes a reality...Every one of us is capable of this. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eco tip: Note on container for homemade toothpaste

I've used a few different types of containers to store my toothpaste and the one that I like best is a peri bottle. I like that you can squeeze it out the same way as you would a tube and therefore avoid the bacteria growth from double dipping your toothbrush into a jar. 

You can add more or less vegetable glycerin to get it to a consistency that is easier to squeeze if that's an issue. And if you are concerned about grabbing the wrong bottle in your sleep deprived state you can easily put your own label on it.

Also, just a pea size amount is all you need and brush for 5 minutes or a song.

I like that there are no nasties or unpronounceable in this paste and you can customize the 'flavors' (mint, lemon, etc.).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Eco Tip: Make your own toothpaste

I admit post Winter my personal care standards descended to a humbling crawl from which I am just now lifting into a newly established 'beauty' routine. I don't believe I was high maintenance before becoming a mom but I've reached a point where until recently getting a shower longer than 3 minutes was a luxury. And more times than I can count I stumbled out of a fragrant, luxuriously warm bath only moments after submerging myself to soothe Winter's nearby battle cry.

One evening this week while enjoying the start of a bath I realized several minutes had lapsed before I had performed the alphabet song or something off the soundtrack for Sound of Music. I looked over and Winter was sitting in her chair nearby simply staring at me. I couldn't tell if it was a let me decide how long I'll give her or Mama I'm fine, if you'd quit the one woman show I'd be even better. Apparently it was the latter because her stare turned to an amused look of concern before she returned to her play book. 
This is a worthwhile milestone they fail to highlight in the life with baby books. 

One of the other rituals in my self care routine that went by the wayside was my homemade toothpaste and alas my teeth have not been as crisp since. No matter how much or what kind I use, its just not the same. Now that we've moved the simple act of going to my near and dear health store to get the paste's key ingredient, vegetable glycerin, has not been possible as a drive to Whole Foods is too much expenditure when I have so little reason to darken their floor space to begin with. Alas, thank gawd for Amazon Mom. I am a dedicated customer and have earned the maximum duration of free 2-day shipping allotted. 
May I return my teeth to their previous status as quickly as Fed-ex can save us.

If you want to spare sending another $5 to Tom in Maine here's the light:

You need:

Equal parts baking soda/vegetable glycerin
Drops of edible oil (peppermint, cinnamon, lemon - can be found in baking aisle) to your preference
Container to store

Mix the above, put in your container and your good to go. Can be stored in your medicine cabinet.

Sometimes I add other special "ingredients" to whiten etc. but you can't go wrong with the above. There have been times when I've not done equal parts vegetable glycerin or used none at all and it really is a key ingredient for an end result that is familiar to what you get from a tube.

Good luck!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Starfish Warrior

I have completely dismembered our home and am on the road to rearranging our 1 bedroom apartment into two  mini studios, which I happily have christened our 'sweets'. The result of the transition meant the departure of my very large, very plush pillow top bed to a single, yes...a twin, which I've arranged as a daybed.

I've never been happier.

I've become more and more fond of small living spaces which is why I am a regular follower of Apartment Therapy and Ohdeedoh home design blogs, one with kids in mind, which often spotlight and wax poetic the creative uses of small living space and design. Aside from a smaller eco footprint, less stress and more incentive to remain organized and free of excess the smaller space also contributes positively, at least in our case, to our overall home environment.

Having lived in a variety of home set-ups both large and tiny (flashbacks of my first NYC apartment, the infamous micro studio on York avenue come to mind...). What I've noticed is I do better with less.

As of 7 months we are still co-sleeping and breastfeeding successfully and the loss of the larger sleep space left me wondering if our co-sleeping would be adversely affected given her starfish warrior assumption of any space once she sleeps but I'm very happy to report we've adapted without issue. I know co-sleeping is a controversial topic in American society.  The research in support and opposition led me to feel this was the best decision for us. I'm highly doubtful I would have been able to maintain the milk supply I have without this additional contact at night. It's also contributed more rest overall.

So now she does 'sleepovers in my space and as we continue into the next months and year I will gradually encourage her to transition into her own space full time. I'm introducing the concept by spending more time in her room, 'playing', reading and maintaining naps and early evening in her own bed. I did not experience a problem in getting her to sleep in the crib but I think the security of not existing in a large home and close proximity to sounds and movements of the household around her as a result contributed to this. Regardless, there is no hurry, when she's ready she's ready and I feel a natural pace already has been assumed.

Less can be more.

For a taste of some of the interesting ways parents have adapted small spaces to create a special place their children you should check out the latest entries for Apartment Therapy's Small Cooler 2011 contest for kids.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The way forward is with a broken heart

This book title by Alice Walker is for me the most accurate summary of how I would describe my journey these last 2 years wherein ultimately I have found myself dismantled, on the mend and now blossoming into something and someone restored for the better.

Parenting affects your life so completely that I could speak endlessly on how various areas of my existence have been updated with a new lens, and for the better.  One of the most significant changes it has brought is a heightened decisiveness, confidence and esteem. The importance of decisions has taken a new level as everything I do now affects another human being, a living being who relies on me to protect her, comfort her, care for her and guide her on the path to her fullest potential whatever that may be. 

If there is one thing in this journey so far that I did not expect it was just how early important decisions would be presented and the intense long term impact that could result.

When I learned that Winter was coming and that I would indeed be a single mother my nesting period became one of intensive research and contemplation. Everything from breastfeeding, prenatal care, schools (homeschooling, nanny care, preschool, private primary school). I cycled through endless versions of work schedules, the options open to us if we moved out of the city or stayed, salary and childcare calculations, length of commutes, pumping schedules and as I sifted through the thousands of questions, books, websites, blogs, and various conversations with those I trusted as well as other parents, professionals and general observation I slowly found our way forward.

As I look around I see the fruits of mindful decision making which ultimately is reflected back to me in Winter as she blossoms and grows with assurance and contentment. There are endless decisions that are coming our way and I hope to navigate each one with patience, awareness and clarity.

So this is the mantra for today,

My mind stills and in reflection may I find the way that's true.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Slow Family Living

I am completely touched by the concept behind Slow Family Living and many of the decisions I make do reference this ideal set.  While it is difficult in our present society, as a work out of home mom, and a single parent especially, to create the utopia of a conscious attached living environment for my daughter I see the value in the ways I am able to send these messages of connectivity and warmth to her albeit in an adapted capacity given our modern surroundings.

The Slow Family living manifesto appeals to me especially as a single parent because my capacity is divided so thinly into all the various responsibilities I feel are required to maintain our family unit as I want it to be. Slowing down, creating a warm and inviting home, spending quality time, maintaining joy and appreciation for what we have, each other, and being present in the moments are all very important to me so it’s nice to come across this resource and to share it with others.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Reflections on Mother's Day

This is my first Mother's Day and it does give me pause to reflect on this past year.

I'm someone's mother.

Winter has changed my life so completely I feel as though her first breath was my own. 

When my father said to my last week, 'I do for you what I cannot even do for myself' his statement of strength pulsed my own inner well.  I know this to be true.
I've found strength, a voice and clarity in matters that I previously would have backed down from or shown little boundary for.

I spring out of bed every morning with the lightest step I've ever known and each day I'm away from her I work with an increased no nonsense efficiency, my little girl is waiting on me.

My first true love,
The little girl who arrived and brought heaven with her.
I walk through this brave new world with you.
My beloved
May you see me and know love. 

Happy Mother's Day

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Tonight I learned that Mothering magazine is no longer in publication and they have now become a web only company: MotheringDotCommunity (MDC).

You can read Peggy O'Mara's editorial, "How We Became a Web Company" which explains the long road to this decision to cease printing.

I'm glad to see they will continue the online community with articles, resources and forums but I will dearly miss the print editions.  It was the only parenting magazine wherein I found full support, education and reflections on many of the 'natural parenting' ideals I believe so strongly in and I considered it an important resource.

The importance of having a circle of support be it family, friends, service providers and access to supportive resources is a vital component to parenting to the best of my ability and making informed decisions.  We are not meant to do this alone.

I will certainly miss having access to this incredible publication but will make a point to follow them at their online community.

I encourage you to check them out as well as Mothering is a treasure trove of information and connections for our journey in motherhood.

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to be sick and be prepared

Came across this post today on ohdeedoh called 5 Survival Tips for Being Sick at Home With Kids which was pretty timely considering I'm just now on the mend from a nasty cold, the likes of which I'd never experienced before let alone with a baby.

As a single mom I don't have a partner to shoulder the load once the door closes (I do have the eagerly sweet help from my own parents who are Fantastic) so amongst the several things I thought were great about the post was the fact that she found herself sick while her husband was away which meant her tips were easily relatable for single parents.

I too rarely keep cash around but when the 3 block walk to the store with a baby means getting you both in a state that will pass public approval, dragging yourself through the store and walking back you'd faster sign up for a commitment to the marathon 6 months from now than that when you are on your last gasp.  And after being advised on which over the counters that were safe for breastfeeding I realized none of it was of use to me still on the shelf as it was at Rite Aid. I'd never maintained a medicine cabinet pre-mommy hood but I assure you that long walk will be our last if I can help it.

If there are any ways I can save time and make things easier while maintaining our quality of life I'm all ears and eyes so this was a welcome gold nugget.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The price of cloth

I really enjoy reading the personal finance blog Money Ning and just this week there was a post on clothing diapering: How Much Do Cloth Diapers Really Cost? Of course any time I see writing on cloth diapering it piques my interest. In the end the writer did say there is a cost advantage to cloth diapers if you wash them yourself but it brings me here to share that there is a HUGE spending divide in the world of cloth diapering. One extreme is hilariously touched on in the article Why I will Never by a Good Mama Cloth Diaper and the depths one can go to however you can do cloth diapering super cheap by getting all your diapers secondhand or just getting 2 dozen flat diapers and a few covers with pins or snappis. As little as $50 to $500 setting yourself up given all the options. I think I've spent in the range of $350-500 primarily because I tried several things and bought about 18 pocket diapers (which is the most expensive style of cloth diapers with price ranges within that) because we use cloth 24/7 and I thought that would be easiest (and has proven to be best choice) for daycare and grandma, grandpapa and auntie to use. I have been able to sell off my stash as we outgrow things and retire ones I got as trial runs so that is new found savings as well. Also I now use the marketplace on Diaper Swappers to buy diapers gently used and had I known of this at the start I would have built my whole stash from the fluff there and bought handmade ones from one of the many WAHM (work at home mom) shops online.

When considering the price of cloth know that aside from being a means to significant reduction in new baby expenses it most importantly offers a tremendous savings of environmental resources.