Friday, August 29, 2008

Stuff We Like: Tiny Diner Portable Placemat

We don't eat out often, but when we do, we want Violet to be able to eat with us. That's tough at this age, when food on a plate might as well be sitting on a frisbee waiting to find itself in flight. And of course the thought of putting what she'll be eating directly on the restaurant table is - put politely - stomach-churning. The solution? The Tiny Diner Portable Placemat.

The Tiny Diner placemat is compact (it rolls up to take up less space in the diaper bag), durable, and most importantly, made of safe materials: no lead, PVC, or phthalates. The suction cups on the bottom help affix it to the table, and the spill catcher is effective at keeping at least some of the food that doesn't make it to her mouth off the floor. We pack it alongside her meal whenever we head elsewhere to eat, and when she's done, roll it up, bring it home and wash it so it's ready to go again.

Here she is, putting it to good use tonight as she enjoys her dinner of brown rice, black beans, tomatoes and avocado (with a side of melon) at a brewery alongside the river:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008


As I explained in the previous post, Violet's birthday was three weeks ago, but it's taken me some time to process the photos from the big day and her party the following weekend. Here are the highlights of the celebrations:

Eric and I both took the day off on Violet's birthday to spend the day with her. She kicked things off by trying out eating with utensils for the first time: we gave her a spoon with her oatmeal and let her have at it. Much mess ensued. She's still working on mastering the spoon, and falls back on using her fingers quite a bit, but we're happy to let her figure it out at her own pace.

The real festivities came after breakfast - birthday presents! Violet dove right into the pile, ripping away wrapping paper and inspecting the contents of each package. Among her favorites: a xylophone, a set of Haba blocks, and a Melissa and Doug Learn-To-Play Piano.

After lunch and a nap, we headed to the zoo, where Violet was captivated by the "ki-cas" (tigers/kitty-cats). Violet alternated riding in the Hotsling on my hip or on her Dad's shoulders while we checked out all the animals before heading home for her birthday dinner. We fixed her one of our favorites, Penne with Corn, Roasted Poblanos, Avocado and Tomato; she loved it. Followed that up with a few bites of huckleberry cheesecake, and the birthday girl was ready for a bath and bed. (To see the entire album of Violet's birthday, click on the photo of her and her dad at the zoo.)

The next weekend our families joined us for her birthday party at my parents' place (they have one less 150 pound dog to wrangle there). Lunch was planned with Violet in mind: Grilled Zucchini and Summer Squash Salad with Citrus Splash Dressing (made with zucchini and squash from our garden!), Garlicky Roasted Potato Salad, and fruit skewers with a honey-lime drizzle and mint garnish; grown-ups also got brats. Though we were up into the wee hours the night before prepping those dishes, it was worth it. We wanted Violet to be able to partake of at least most of the menu - it was her party, after all - and she enjoyed some of everything we'd made.

After lunch, the guests all gathered to watch Violet open her gifts. The first thing she unwrapped was a gorgeous pink pettiskirt, with matching wand and sparkly headband from her Aunt Amy and Aunt Meagan. She adored her new girly gear, and wore it until it was time for cake.

We wrapped up the festivities with a couple of Marion berry Upside-Down cakes I made using some delicious berries we picked up at the farmer's market the morning before. (Marion berries are a favorite of ours, and we planted some this spring, but it doesn't look like our bush will be producing much this year.) Violet loved the cake, but was left with a rash around her mouth and up near her eye, where she had rubbed with a cake-covered hand, after eating it. Once again, the rash faded quickly, and we still haven't been able to pinpoint what she's reacting to.

She fell asleep nursing not long after that, giving me some time to just watch her and marvel at how much she's changed in the past year. How did our baby get so big so fast?

(To see the entire album of Violet's birthday party, click on the photo of the birthday girl in her party hat above.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Catching Up (And Keeping Up): Photos on Flickr

After acquiring my (er, our) first digital SLR in January, I’ve been shooting primarily in RAW. (For those who are not photo nerds, the difference between RAW files and the standard JPEG is that there is a certain amount of processing that takes place in-camera when you shoot in JPEG. RAW files are, well, raw, and must be processed by the photographer on the computer.)

Shooting in RAW has done a lot to further my self-study of the subject of photography, but tacks on a fairly significant amount of time in post-processing. That’s not a problem for individual photos, and is certainly worth the extra effort in portraiture. But it isn’t very practical for snapshots, particularly a lot of snapshots. I rarely remember to switch back to JPEG, though, so events like Violet’s birthday and birthday party can take me a while to get through.

After nearly three weeks, though, I’ve done it! A few photos will be featured in a separate subsequent post, and the complete albums can be found on our Flickr photostream: The Flickr photostream is something I’ve just recently started working on. From our photostream page, you can see all of our most recently uploaded stuff, as well as photos organized in sets.

One of those sets contains my latest (and perhaps most masochistic) project: Violet 365. I’ve resolved to take – and post - at least one photo of Violet a day, beginning on her first birthday, for a full year. I've kept it up for 21 days so far! (Only 344 to go . . .) My favorite photo for the week usually makes it to a Wordless Wednesday post, but if you’re wanting more, check the Flickr photostream for the daily additions. I’ve posted a permanent link on the left.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Love is Having a Fluffy Behind: Cloth Diapers Are Making a Comeback

“Love is patient, love is kind . . . love is having a fluffy behind.” So goes the saying in today’s cloth diapering community. After decades of dedication to disposable diapers, more and more parents are coming back to cloth. But the choice to cloth diaper is still far enough from the mainstream to inspire many raised eyebrows.

The even more common response we encountered whenever we announced our intention to cloth diaper Violet before she was born was a slightly patronizing smile, accompanied by the standard, “wait until the baby is here.” (Read: you’re never gonna go through with this.)

She’s over a year old now, and is still exclusively in cloth. Which might surprise some of the skeptics, but what they may not have considered is that cloth diapers have come a long way from the folding and pins so many of us picture when we hear "cloth diapers." There are several styles of cloth diapers available today, all of them easier to use than most people imagine.

Of course, however convenient cloth diapers may have become, they do require more of an effort than their disposable counterparts; there’s just no shortcut to the additional loads of laundry. So why do we do it?

The environmental impact of cloth vs. disposable diapers is the most widely recognized reason to choose cloth. Approximately 18 billion disposable diapers end up in landfills each year; they are the third largest source of solid waste found in landfills. It’s estimated that it takes somewhere between 250 and 500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose.

Concern for the environment does provide us with incentive to cloth diaper our daughter. But the even more compelling, though less talked-about, reason is that we believe it’s better not just for the environment, but for her. Disposable diapers contain several toxic chemicals that we’d rather not have next to her skin for two or more years.

Dioxin. Traces of dioxin, a by-product of the paper-bleaching process used in manufacturing disposable diapers, have been found in disposable diapers. Dioxin is a carcinogenic chemical that has been banned in most countries (but not the U.S.). It has been shown to cause liver damage, immune suppression and genetic damage, in addition to cancer.

TBT. Tributyltin (TBT) , which has also been found in disposable diapers, is an extremely toxic substance which can cause hormonal problems and damage the immune system.

Sodium Polyacrylate. This stuff makes up the clear gel that makes disposable diapers “super absorbent” (beads of it are often found on a disposable-diapered baby’s bum). Sodium polyacrylate was also used in tampons until it was removed in 1985 when it was linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Equally alarming, employees in factories manufacturing sodium polyacrylate have been discovered to suffer from reproductive problems, fatigue, weight loss, and slow-healing wounds.

Disposable wipes caused us no less concern. Many physicians recommend not using disposable wipes until a baby is at least two weeks old because the chemicals in the wipes are too harsh for newborn skin. Since that didn’t sound like something we wanted to use on our baby’s skin at any age, we’ve opted for cloth wipes since she was born. Natural cleansing solutions are available for use with cloth wipes – we’ve opted to keep it simple and stick with pure water.

Even the thousands of additional loads of laundry our diapering decision has already created for us haven't dissuaded us from continuing to keep Violet in cloth. (For those concerned about water waste, don't - our HE machine keeps that to a minimum. And the resources, including water, involved in the manufacturing, distributing, and washing of cloth diapers don't even compare to those involved in the manufacture and distribution of the number of disposables a baby would go through in its diapering lifetime.) And while there have been a few hiccups in the process (buildup leading to leaks, one persistent yeast rash), we've figured out how to resolve all of those and prevent recurrence. It's absolutely been worth the effort, and we're looking forward to continuing Violet in cloth. Check back for more on cloth diapers, including our favorite diapers and accessories, in future posts!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

Don't Turn Around: Keep Kids' Car Seats Rear-Facing Longer

Although Violet is one year old, we don't have any plans to turn her car seat to face forward any time soon. Most parents are aware of the minimum standard: wait to turn the car seat from rear to forward facing until your child is one year old AND weighs at least twenty pounds. But experts - including the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) - agree that keeping kids rear-facing longer keeps them safer in the event of an accident.

How long? Kids are safest riding rear-facing as long as they continue to meet the height and weight limits of their specific car seat. For most convertible car seats, that means until the top of the child's head reaches the top of the shell, and up to 30 or 35 pounds. Many kids won't reach those limits until well past two, or even three.

In a frontal collision, injuries to a child in a car seat are generally limited to the head and neck. In a forward-facing seat, a child's body will be held back by the harness, while the head is thrown forward, subjecting the neck to massive stress, and possibly stretching or even breaking the spinal cord. In a rear-facing car seat, on the other hand, the head, neck and spine stay fully aligned, allowing the child to "ride down" the crash while the back of the seat absorbs most of the impact.

Though a rear-facing seat won't provide as much protection in a rear end collision, rear end collisions only account for about 4% of severe crashes - 72% of severe crashes are frontal collisions, and 24% side impacts. Frontal collisions are not only much more common, but much more severe than rear end crashes.

Kids can continue to ride rear-facing safely even when their legs are long enough that their feet are touching the vehicle seat. It may look uncomfortable to an adult, but kids are flexible and often prefer to sit with their legs folded. More importantly, there are no documented cases of hip or leg injuries in rear-facing children. And even if a child were to suffer an injury to a hip or leg, such injury would certainly be less devastating than the head or neck injury the child would likely have suffered if she had been forward facing during the collision.

In the United States, motor vehicles collisions are the number one cause of death for children under the age of 14. Keeping the car seat rear-facing as long as possible significantly reduces the risk of injury and death to children involved in collisions.

Looks like Violet is going to be enjoying the view out the back window a while longer.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Monday, August 04, 2008

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Violet celebrated her first birthday today! Despite what you see here, the day did not include any cake. We offered her her first birthday cake a few weeks ago, intending to use a "cake smash" shot in her party invitations, and to our surprise - she hated it.

We presented her with the cake on a Saturday afternoon, expecting her to dive right in. Though she hadn't ever eaten anything processed, (or anything including sugar, or dairy, or food coloring . . .) she's been willing to try every fruit and vegetable we've presented her with, and eggplant and cucumber are just about that only things she turns her nose up at entirely. So we thought she'd be all for the new flavors and textures of the cake. Hardly. She dipped a tentative finger in the icing, tasted it, and burst into tears. We encouraged her just to play with it, but she wasn't interested in that, either.

Eric captioned this shot It's Not Vegetables :

Obviously we'd never intended to use her birthday cake to torture her, so we decided to call it quits. Before taking it away, though, Eric offered her a couple of spoons. Utensils made all the difference; while she never attempted to eat any more of the cake, she entertained herself and both of us for some time tearing it apart.

It wasn't until we plopped her into the bath and started washing all that pink icing off that we could see she'd broken out in hives. No telling what caused them - there were countless ingredients in that cake and icing she'd never been exposed to - but they disappeared within an hour or so, without any further effects.

So when considering what to offer her for dessert on her actual birthday, it was easy to rule out the traditional cake. We went with a huckleberry cheesecake instead, and while she seemed to enjoy a few bites of that, she certainly wasn't smitten. Maybe her sweet tooth won't come in for a few years.

It's hard to believe she's already a year old. Happy Birthday, big girl. And many, many more.

(To see the whole set of Violet's cake smash photos, click on the photo of her crawling away -through the cake - above.)

Friday, August 01, 2008

Reasons to Celebrate: World Breastfeeding Week Coincides with Our Own Breastfeeding Milestone

Today marks the beginning of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) World Breastfeeding Week 2008! (August 1 - August 7) This year’s theme, Mother Support: Going for the Gold, calls for increased support for breastfeeding mothers “in achieving the gold standard of infant feeding.” Such support can be invaluable to breastfeeding mamas, and in turn, their babies.

Violet's birthday, August 4, will fall right in the middle of World Breastfeeding Week, and fittingly, will mark our reaching my initial goal to breastfeed her for at least one year. While we’re still a couple days away from the big day, she’s still nursing - and at this point, my 300+ ounce freezer stash would see her through and then some even if that were to change - so I think it’s safe to say we’ll make it. And we’ll keep going after that.

Breastfeeding is something I’ve become increasingly passionate about since becoming a mother. There’s no dispute that human breastmilk is by far the very best food for babies. Not only is breastmilk perfectly formulated to meet the nutritional needs of the infant, it contains over 100 nutritional components that aren’t found in any brand of formula.

Breastmilk also provides other benefits to babies that formula can't. Breastfeeding decreases the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases, including bacterial meningitis, diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections and ear infections. Breastfeeding also has been linked to reduced rates of SIDS in the first year, and type 1 and type 2 diabetes, lymphoma, leukemia, obesity, hypercholesterolemia and asthma in older children and adults.

Understanding that breast truly is best, I expected to breastfeed Violet after she was born. What I didn’t expect was how important to me it would become, not just for the reasons that can be supported by a scientific study, but also for the bond that it created between my baby and me. (Okay, there actually are studies that reflect a correlation between breastfeeding and secure attachment, but no amount of analysis can compare to the connection I feel when she is in my arms and nursing.)

I was fortunate in that breastfeeding came easily to Violet and me. With the gentle guidance of our doula, Jennifer Schepper, she latched on within minutes of her birth. I was prepared for pain those first few weeks, but other than some slightly cracked nipples the first day or two, none came. We escaped common breastfeeding obstacles like mastitis and thrush, and have dealt with only one clogged duct to date. A brief nursing strike when Violet was 7 months old scared me, but resolved itself within a couple of days. But even in the absence of much of the significant struggle that can accompany breastfeeding a baby, the support I received was critical to my breastfeeding relationship with Violet, which makes this year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme that much more personal for me.

Jennifer not only helped us in the first few hours of our breastfeeding journey, but returned to our home to provide additional insight weeks later, and I’ve called her more than once in the following months to tap into her expertise on the subject.

Eric was of course my biggest support system, from the first days (when he fixed me elaborate and delicious meals I’d eat from the recliner I never seemed to make it out of for long) through this day, when he will join me in celebrating something we both believe in – breastfeeding our baby. His appreciation for what I’ve done - am doing - is support in its truest form.

And where would I be without my beloved friend Mandy? A breastfeeding mother of two, I consulted her nearly daily for months, on this and other topics she had exponentially more experience with than I did. And she never scoffed at my obsessive concern about my supply, for which I will be forever grateful.

The value of providing any type of support to a breastfeeding mothers simply can’t be underestimated. I hope to offer much of it myself to other mamas, starting right here. A woman’s success with breastfeeding is so dependant on her exposure and access to accurate information. Without it, she may be misled to believe that breastfeeding isn’t the best thing for her baby, that she simply can’t breastfeed, or that her baby is done breastfeeding (‘weaned himself/herself’) at an age when no baby would voluntarily wean. I’d like for this blog to be my forum for providing support to breastfeeding women in the spirit of World Breastfeeding Week: look for future posts dispelling breastfeeding myths and addressing other breastfeeding issues. And feel free to ask any questions of your own about breastfeeding - if I don't know the answer, I'll be happy to hunt for it.