Part-Time Cloth Diapers

This diaper: The Good Mama

Super cute three-eyed kraken diaper by The GoodMama

While pregnant with Boogie, my sister in-law gifted me with all of her daughters’ outgrown cloth diapers. About a dozen all-in-two AMP diapers, nearly two dozen inserts, and several (sadly, now defunct) GoodMama all-in-ones, they were probably worth $300. I was grateful but incredibly intimidated. Could I handle the commitment to cloth?

I spent hours researching the “correct” detergent to use, the proper washing process, and how, why, and how often I should “strip” the diapers. I bought a specific type of cloth diaper-approved diaper rash cream, until it was discontinued, at which point I consulted another chart for a new cream. I read heated debates over stripping versus not stripping diapers, the benefits of using more versus using less detergent and vice versa, and the countless cost-benefit analyses of cloth versus disposables.

If you’re reading about cloth diapering with despair and trepidation, let me be the first to say you don’t have to do it all the time! Too many people buy into the notion that if you’ve decided to use cloth diapers you have to go all in, decry disposables, and commit to twice- or thrice-weekly laundry and swishing poopy inserts in the toilet every day.

I’m going to say it: IT’S OKAY to take a one-week, or one-month, or in my case, a three-month break! IT’S OKAY to use cloth diapers part time!

When she was a newborn I found that we were blowing through our diaper inserts in about two days, which meant I was doing laundry almost daily. And diaper laundry isn’t like normal laundry. A load of diapers took nearly three hours (20-minute hot wash, 20-minute cold wash, two 45-minute dry cycles, plus the time it took to air dry the diaper covers).

In other words, I. Burned. Out. on cloth diapering. Pretty quickly.

I started using disposables and eventually accepted that I tried cloth, and failed. Then I found myself questioning this line of thought. Why are we as parents—especially first-time parents—expected to choose a parenting “camp” and blindly commit to it? We hear all the time that every baby is different, every parenting circumstance is different, and household needs are different. Then we hear buzz words that categorize parenting as though raising children is simply “this” or “that.” Cloth diapering. Attachment parenting. Baby-led weaning. It’s exhausting.

Learning to let go of the idea of either cloth or disposables actually helped me to stick with cloth diapering WHEN I COULD.

Now that she’s almost a year old her “elimination” schedule is a little more predictable. We rely or disposables to get us through the night and when she’s sick. Then during the day when we’re home, we use cloth diapers as frequently as possible. If I don’t feel like using cloth for a day or two, I don’t. And I’m breathing easier.

So my cost-benefit analysis is a little skewed now. I’m okay with that.

Easy Stovetop Mac N Cheese

Easy Stovetop Mac N' Cheese

With a solid-food-eating 10 month-old, part of my meals usually go to the baby. It does motivate me to eat more fruit and vegetables, but I confess, I gots to eat cheese on the daily. Dairy is my favorite food group. Usually a sprinkle of parmesan on my eggs for breakfast, or a few cubes of cheddar on crackers at snack time suffice, but sometimes only a warm bowl of comforting, dairy-and-carb-laden macaroni and cheese will do.

Yes, mac and cheese can be had as easily as microwaving a bowl of water. But I just don’t feel right making it from a box when I can make it from scratch in the same amount of time. My version tastes better, too. Making a creamy, white bechamel sauce of roux and milk takes just a few minutes, and your options for cheese, pasta type, and toppings are endless. A couple of examples: ham and peas with gruyere on shells; spinach and mushrooms with mozzarella on cavatappi. Here, I kept it classic with broccoli and cheddar on penne. Bon appetit!

Mac and Cheese

STOVETOP MAC N’ CHEESE
Prep time: 3 min  Cook time: 12 minutes
Yield: 3 servings

INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/4 c 2% milk
1 1/2 c shredded cheese (I used a mixture of mild cheddar, sharp cheddar, and monterey jack)
1/2 tsp salt
1 c broccoli, washed and trimmed
1 1/2 c pasta, any shape (I used penne)
dash of paprika (optional)
dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
fresh cracked pepper (optional)

PREPARATION

  1. Boil pasta according to package directions. When five minutes remain, add broccoli to boiling pasta water. When time is up, drain in colander and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat.
  3. When butter is melted and beginning to bubble add the flour and whisk to form a roux.
  4. Cook roux, whisking constantly, until light brown and nutty in aroma, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add half of the milk and salt, and whisk until smooth in consistency. Then add remaining milk and whisk until smooth in consistency.
  6. Turn down heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add shredded cheese and stir until melted. Turn off heat.
  8. Stir in cayenne, paprika, and cracked black pepper.
  9. Fold cooked pasta and broccoli into cheese sauce and serve immediately.Mac and Cheese closeup

Parentitis: Why I Don’t Hear from my Single Friends Anymore

Parentitis: Why I Don't Hear from my Single Friends AnymoreLast week I was on a walk with my neighborhood mom group when we got caught in a downpour (hooray, spring in the Gulf Coast). We took shelter in a coffee shop and every patron inside—even the employees—looked at us with disdain. They glanced sideways at our strollers like they were going to multiply.

Let me emphasize that we split up the strollers and tucked them into unused corners. We picked up the dropped cereal puffs and threw them in the trash. We bought drinks. None of the children cried. It didn’t matter. We were BREEDERS. They wanted nothing to do with us and our horrible offspring.

They regarded us as though our parenthood was contagious. PARENTITIS! Don’t look at the breeders or you might end up like one of them!

That night as I relayed to Hubs what had happened he verbalized what I had secretly been thinking all day. A year ago we would have done the exact same thing. And right around the time I announced my pregnancy, many of our friends without children did do the exact same thing. They treated me like I was contagious. I started to not hear from them as much.

Look, I get it. To many people without children, parenthood is an irreversible condition in which your social life, travel opportunities, and finances are squandered as you struggle to raise a screaming, booger-covered germ factory not to be an asshole.

It’s also terrifying to think that, after years of trying not to get pregnant, we were suddenly at an age when people were actively trying to get pregnant. And then we had to pretend like it wasn’t terrifying.

Boogie is ten months old now, and I’ve grown used to not hearing from my friends who don’t have children. Photos of out-of-town beer fests and weekend girl getaways pop up on social media and I still occasionally feel a twinge of jealousy laced with a little anger. I fully disclose that the transition from A-list to No-list was tough.

My sister, a mother of two, warned me when I was pregnant that many of my friendships wouldn’t survive past baby’s first year. But I stubbornly held on to the idea that parenthood wouldn’t change my socially active lifestyle. We could still drink beer! We could still go to concerts! We could still camp! We would just bring her along!

Most people without kids naturally assume that you’re no longer eligible for late-night shenanigans (which is, sadly, mostly true). We know our limitations now. We still go out for drinks, but now it’s on weekend afternoons (instead of five nights a week) and we stop before we get hammered. Because caring for a baby while hung over is pretty much the worst kind of hell there is. We like to go out of town, but we rock a pack n’ play and noise machine with our bags. Admittedly, we haven’t been to any concerts with Boogie, but she does have headphones to protect her ears when the opportunity arises. Our social life hasn’t suffered per se, it’s just…modified.

It’s true that many of our friends have dropped off the map. Many of them haven’t—and we’ve even gained some great, new parent friends—but many of them have. They either assume we no longer believe in fun, our schedules around naps and sleeps don’t match up, or they just didn’t sign up to be around kids. And that’s fine.

Along with my sister’s warning came a silver lining: You may lose some friends, but you also won’t really care. You have something bigger now. I caught parentitis and it’s irreversible. And I’m glad.

And to the anti-breeders in the coffee shop we reacted as any group of rational, educated women would. We ignored them and sang along with the 90s R&B tunes playing over the speakers.

What Bugs Me About Play Dates

What Bugs Me About Play Dates

I recently read a statistic that in a baby’s first year they’ll contract 6-12 infections that will last 7-10 days each. That’s roughly once a month that I can count on my kid contracting whatever hot new bug the kids are passing around at the time. My neighborhood mom group jokingly calls them BTD’s (Baby Transmitted Diseases).

Boogie caught her first cold from a play date which led to her first ear infection. Then the ear infection came back less than a month later, and it took two (more) rounds of antibiotics to send it back to hell.

She caught a rowdy stomach bug at a Valentine’s Day play date, which led her to vomit all over a friend’s vacation condo the following day and poop on a previously adoring stranger.

More recently, we thought we were in for another ear infection due to a fever, but turns out it was Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (!!!). Cue a ten-day self-imposed quarantine and then we happily came out yesterday to a field trip on a beautifully bucolic farm with a dozen or so other mom/baby pairs.

We learned about permaculture, rainwater harvesting, and habits of chickens. We ate homemade whole wheat pistachio macarons. It was spectacular.

The picnic lunch during which the babies stole one another’s toys and slobbered on each other’s water bottles triggered a small, quiet terror in the back of my mind, but I didn’t want to be “that mom.”

That mom” who silently grits her teeth at the sound of a coughing child sitting next to yours. “It’s cool. It’s cool,” we tell ourselves while diverting our googly eyes as the cough-y baby reaches for your baby’s pacifier. “Sharing immunity, or whatever. GAH!” Aren’t we all secretly “that mom,” though, or have I just not been momming long enough?

And I get it about the sharing immunity thing. I feel like Boogie’s neighborhood friends have all shared each other’s bugs enough that they can play together without getting sick every week. It’s the getting sick part that sucks though.

So early this morning Boogie vomited. At 2 a.m. as I mentally went through the appearances of the children on the farm I remembered one child in particular who had extra green snot streaming from his nose. A kid we’d never met before. He was sitting next to Boogie. I’m sure they shared toys. Dammit.

So what bugs me about play dates is the lack of disclosure from some of these moms. Each time my child has gotten sick following a play date, I’ve contacted all of the mothers who attended to let them know. I call it the BTD Call of Shame.

After the V-Day stomach bug I worried that the mothers would think it was my child who was Patient Zero. But as I spoke with my family and friends about it they all agreed that it’s always the mom who doesn’t say anything who’s at fault. TRUTH, right? Something like eight other babies and five moms caught that same bug. We only learned that because I was the first to disclose Boogie’s symptoms to the group and others chimed in afterward. Would we have known otherwise?

I realize that we’re not always going to know that our child is sick at a play date, but if we do, it’s our duty and responsibility to disclose it to the other parents. We don’t know the condition of others’ immune systems—my sister, who has lupus, for example, has a very compromised immune system. A cold to us is not “just a cold” to her. I don’t take my sick kid to play dates or public play areas, and that keeps my conscience clear.

Look, the BTD Call of Shame sucks. But knowingly exposing others to your kid’s cooties is worse. Just own up and speak up, and hopefully others will respect you and your kid more for it.

UPDATE: Twelve hours later there was no vomit or diarrhea to speak of. I think it was just the one-time, middle-of-the-night freak vomit occurrence. Thank the lawd!

The Great Grandfamily

Bird meets her great-grandma.

Bird meets her Great-Grandma D.

In her fourth month the little one logged almost 4,000 miles on the road and visited four of her five living great grandparents. We didn’t plan it that way, but Hubs unexpectedly had some retroactive paternity leave, so we decided to spend Thanksgiving in Tucson (which involved driving 1,000 miles each way) where three of his four living grandparents reside.

We also spent Halloween back home (which involved driving 600 miles each way), stopping to stay with my American grandma on the way. My Okinawan grandma is on the list for next year.

We learned a lot of family stories that we hadn’t heard before, like how Hubs’ paternal grandparents met on a blind date in high school while living in rural Wisconsin. They lived in rival towns twenty miles apart and saw each other every weekend until Grandpa joined the Navy three years later. They married in 1960. Grandma was 18 years old. In their 55 years of marriage they’ve had two sons, three grandsons, one great-grandson… and a great granddaughter. At the beginning of the week they almost didn’t know what to do with a girl.

Bird and her Great-Grandma K

Bird and her Great-Grandma K

Hubs’ maternal grandparents almost didn’t marry. They had each been in love with another person, but their parents forbade “interracial” relationships outside of their Armenian heritage. Eventually they met through family connections (they are both Armenian), and were married for almost 60 years before Grandpa passed away last year. They had six daughters (including a set of identical twins, one of them my MIL), nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

My paternal grandparents met in junior high in the early 1950s. Papa had moved to “the city” from rural Oklahoma, and was the only kid in school wearing cowboy boots, while everyone else wore penny loafers and saddle shoes. He would have been teased, but he was bigger than everyone else, and no one dared bully him. More than 30 years of marriage before Papa died of complications from heart surgery in his 50s. Three children, seven grands, eight great-grands.

My maternal grandparents had an arranged marriage. For nearly three months after the arrangement was made by their fathers, my Obaachan refused to live with my Ojiichan. But he was patient and kind, and waited for her to come on her own. Eventually they migrated from their tiny fishing island to the larger, more prosperous island of Okinawa, where they bought a home and became devout Buddhists. More than 60 years of marriage, five children, sixteen grands, and fifteen great-grands.

Since we’ve been back I’ve thought a lot about family histories, and aging, and marriages that last a lifetime. Family stories have long been written, and have been so since long before we came along. But none of us just wakes up with a family and a mortgage. Each generation started with a first meeting, a first child, and a first home. And of course I’ve just given the end results of these stories, and not the many highlights, fumbles, losses, triumphs, and personality strengths and caveats.

Our family story is being written right now, every day. We’re nearly two years into marriage, one child, and we still rent. What will we get to tell our great-grandchildren when they visit? What will they remember about our family story? Thinking about it makes me want to live more positively and purposefully. We only get one go of it, after all. I hope our story ends up rich and colorful, with lots of quirky turns, but mostly full of love.

She Fell Off the Couch

Well, it happened. My nearly-four-month-old baby fell off the couch for the first time two days ago, and I’m still replaying it in my mind every few hours. I always knew it would happen — babies fall all the time — but a first-time parent is never prepared for it. That thump you hear when you’re not looking, the split-second confusion as you look at the empty spot where your baby should be, and the piercing scream that immediately follows. It’s horrible. But of course, everyone you tell has a similar, or worse, story to relate, and they all seem to say the same thing: “This is the first of many. You’ll get used to it.” Will I?

I’m thankful I wasn’t home alone with her when it happened–it was a Sunday and my husband was home (and therefore just as much at fault)–and overjoyed that all she suffered was a split lip and a red chin.

Thing is, I figured it would take a fall before we stopped putting the play mat on the couch for her to rest. More accurately, I figured she’d roll over one day and roll off the couch. And then I’d kick myself for not putting the play mat on the floor sooner. But she isn’t rolling over yet, so I thought we had more time. Instead, I’m kicking myself for just not putting her far enough back on the couch so she couldn’t wiggle off. Whatever. Same difference, at the end of the day. I’m kicking myself.

So, lesson learned. And even though I can barely look at her play mat without replaying the incident and feeling a little queasy, I’m now extra vigilant about putting her on it–regardless of what surface is underneath. Until she falls again. Because she will. UGH.

Three Things that Terrify My Husband About Labor & Delivery

Husband_LandDMy husband, K, or, the Armenian Viper (long story), has been a fantastic pregnancy partner. Once he was able to move through the first six stages of grief over his former life as a carefree, child-free, relatively-responsibility-free newlywed, he reached the final stage of acceptance and hope several months ago. He now dutifully indulges my late-night pasta cravings and hoists me off of the furniture when I can’t get up fast enough.

As I was drafting our birth plan for my OB last week, I assumed K would be the one to “catch” the baby and cut the cord. When I confirmed with him that this was in fact what we wanted, he revealed that he had a few really legitimate fears:

  1. He’s never “caught” a baby before. What if she slips out and he doesn’t catch her in time? What if she falls through his hands?
  2. What if he awkwardly catches her by a limb and accidentally dislocates it?
  3. What if he misjudges the length of the umbilical cord and yanks too hard when he’s handing her to me?

It occurred to me that aside from my own natural fears about labor and delivery, I hadn’t given much thought to my husband’s responsibilities as a birthing partner and how he might be processing the situation.

He’s going to have as much experience being a new parent as I will. He may not have to learn how to breast feed or nurse his shredded nether region back to working order, but he has his own set of Dad worries.

And as his baby raising partner, I owe it to him to respect his role in the labor and delivery process, and all the fears and anxieties that come with the experience.

I also owe it to him to let him know that I aired his concerns with my brother, a father of two, who quickly confirmed that he has nothing to worry about. He’ll catch the baby. He’s going to be just fine.

Image via Tyler Olson/shutterstock

Steel Cut Oatmeal Pancakes with Berries & Meyer Lemon Whipped Cream

Steel Cut Pancakes - Title
I’ve heard from many women that they had never been healthier than when they were pregnant. I can’t think of better motivation to eat healthily than growing a human within your body. That said, I must eat something sweet every day. Every. Day. And sometimes undecorated fruit just doesn’t cut it.

In the great waffle versus pancake debate, I’ve always been Team Waffle. My mother was a fantastic cook and baker, but pancakes were the one thing she couldn’t do well. She used a mix that had the same consistency as wet cement, and she almost always burned them.

But I’m pregnant, so my cravings are allowed to defy all logic. This weekend I needed pancakes. Hence, these fluffy, made-from-scratch beauties, adapted from The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland. Best part: only 2 tablespoons of sugar in the whole batch of batter. Continue reading