Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Last day to enter the Writing Contest

Remember to submit your Writing Contest entry tonight! I'm going to bed soon and will check my email when I get up tomorrow. Anything in my inbox from now until I wake up is fair game.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010


When I was young, my dad rigged up an elaborate system to catch nightcrawlers. He inserted metal probes into the soil and ran a mild electrical current through them, jolting the nightcrawlers out of their homes and above ground. We collected the large worms for our next fishing expedition.

But this post is not about worms or fishing. It is about another breed of nightcrawler: my firstborn son.

Dio is a nightcrawler. Shortly after he mastered the art of crawling, his sleep went from poor to terrible. Every time he stirs, every time he wakes, no matter the hour, all he wants to do is crawl. He crawls. Crawling wakes him up more, and he cries. He crawls until he hits a barrier, then he pulls himself up to standing and cries. Or he sits up and cries. Nightcrawling wakes him up, and he becomes more and more agitated as he's simultaneously trying to crawl and needing to sleep. But when we lay him back down, he screams even more. He fights us and tries to turn over and start crawling again. Coupled with bouts of frequent waking, Dio's night crawling has turned nights into an absolute misery for Eric and me. Dio used to be able to settle himself down at night, provided he wasn't too hungry (not every single time, but fairly often). Not any more. In his half-awake state, he cannot figure out how to get back down, turn onto his back, and go back to sleep.

Of the three places he sleeps, our bed is now the worst. He will no longer settle down when we bring him into bed with us. In his crib next to our bed, he pulls himself up to standing over and over, destroying any chance of sleep. He does the best on a twin mattress on the floor in Zari's room. He can't pull himself up anywhere, since there's just walls and bed and floor. So he crawls and sits up, usually staying on the bed, but sometimes rolling off the bed (it's not a big drop, and I put pillows next to the bed to soften the landing). Last week Eric found him in the middle of the room, half awake, crying.
I am not a crier. I didn't cry when I got married. I didn't even cry when my children were born. But last night, I cried. I cried from exhaustion so profound it seemed like my bones were made of lead. I cried because I have never before experienced such intense and relentless sleep deprivation. I'll take a newborn's sleeping patterns any day. I cried because nothing I do seems to help Dio sleep. Co-sleeping is over; all Dio wants to do when he's in our bed is stand up against our headboard and jump, even if it's 3 am. I cried because when we cuddle him back to sleep (read: gently pin him down so he can't start crawling, until he relaxes his body enough to fall asleep), he fights and screams. I cried because if things do not improve soon, I will probably make him cry-it-out. I cried because I know that will be awful for me, but I don't know if there's any other way to deal with the night crawling and night waking. I cried because I love this little boy so much that I almost can't breathe. As I lay in bed with him at 4 am last night, feeling the terrible weight of fatigue, desperate for sleep, he started clapping his hands. Over and over, just so happy to have mastered this new skill. How can I feel such extremes of emotion, such joy coupled with such awful torment?
Now for some novel-esque details on Dio's sleep habits. I desperately need for something to change. But I have little hope for actually finding a solution. I've read many different sleep books, each one claiming to have the solution to your baby's sleep problems, each one giving different advice. How can a book purport to solve MY child's specific problems? MY baby will not necessarily respond predictably to the elaborate routines and practices touted to teach children healthy sleeping habits.

First, here is Dio's typical night schedule:
  • 6:30 or 7 pm: go to bed
  • He might wake several times between 7 and 11 pm. Other nights he might sleep straight through. Recently, we've had to go in and settle him down when he wakes--because of the crawling issues. 
  • 11 pm: wakes up, one of us settles him down (no nursing) 
  • Midnight: wakes up and nurses
  • 3 am: wakes up, one of us settles him down (no nursing). Sometimes he sleeps soundly until 5 am, but other times (increasingly so, it seems) he wakes up repeatedly until 5 am, or at times will not go back to sleep at all
  • 5 am: wakes up and nurses
  • 7 am: wakes up for the morning

The 3 am-5 am stretch is killing me. I usually go to bed around 10:30 or 11 pm, but with his waking right around then, it can sometimes be much later when I actually fall asleep. Quite often it's not until after his midnight nursing that I can finally go to sleep. Then just 3 hours later I'm up again. Eric often gets up at this time, but even when I can stay under the covers, I am awake for the whole thing. Then just 2 hours later (if we're lucky and he actually sleeps from 3-5 am), I'm up again to nurse him, and 2 hours after that he's awake for the morning. It's been particularly hard now that he's staying in his own room all night. I can no longer just roll over and comfort him. I have to get out of bed, walk to his room, get him back to sleep--all the while freezing cold, since we keep our house at 62 F at night and there's a fan blowing for white noise. And if he wakes up 5 minutes, or 15 minutes, or 1 hour later, I have to repeat the whole process. Thing is, he does sleep better in his room than in ours at this point, so it needs to stay that way. 

Dio's night wakings, especially the 11 am and 3 am ones, are definitely habitual, not from hunger or being cold or whatever. He doesn't need to nurse (and actually, when I've tried nursing him at 3 am on particularly restless nights, it doesn't seem to help much to settle him down). 

Bundling/swaddling have been very helpful for helping Dio settle down and for keeping him asleep longer, in part because they kept him from rolling over and hence from crawling. But he is so strong now that he can easily work his way out. And summer is coming. Once it gets hot, bundling will be out of the question.

Some good things relating to Dio and sleep:

1) He almost always falls asleep on his own, rather than nursing to sleep. This is true for both naptime and bedtime. Now, sometimes he's so wiped out at bedtime that he will fall asleep nursing, but it's more a chance thing. Zari, on the other hand, had to nurse to sleep every.single.time. until she was 20+ months old. This means that Eric can settle Dio down at night. I still am awake for it, but it is nice to be able to stay under the warm covers and let someone else do the nighttime parenting. But this also means that Eric, for the first time, is experiencing sleep deprivation. With Zari, I did all of the nighttime tasks--nursing every 2-3 hours until she was 18-19 months old, calming, diapering, pottying, bundling, etc. And Zari was never that restless or fussy, so he slept mostly undisturbed. Well, until Zari got  so wiggly at night that he'd get kicked in the head, at which point she spent more time in the crib next to our bed.

2) Naps are pretty good. I just switched him from 2 naps to 1, and he's adjusted just fine. He now takes a 2-3 hour long nap in the early afternoon. We went through a spell where he was only napping for 30-45 minutes at a time, but that is over, thankfully. 

Here are some of my goals for Dio's sleep habits:
  • Cut out his habitual 11 pm and 3 am wakings--which would mean sleep stretches of 5 hours, 5 hours, and then 2 hours (or maybe 4/5/3 hours, etc...).
  • I'm not trying to night-wean him, so I am fine getting up once or twice to nurse him. Once would be lovely, but I'm trying to be realistic here!
  • Help him learn how to settle himself down, including how to get back down from crawling, sitting, or standing positions and lie down again. He can do this when he's awake, but in his half-sleep he just can't figure it out
  • Keep him from pulling himself up and standing at night if possible, since it really agitates him and makes him wake up a lot more. 
  • Find something other than bundling, since that will not work with summer coming
  • Help him sleep deeply in between wakings, so he's not up every 20-30 minutes, or every hour (all things that happen quite often around here)
I really, really need advice. Something beyond the comfortless platitudes that "when you look back, this time will go by so quickly" or "it will get better eventually." I am even willing to consider a crying-it-out technique--if I can be convinced that it will actually work. At his age, with how much he cries already at night even when we're trying to help, and with his situation (not being comforted by our presence, for example), crying-it-out is definitely on the table for me. But here's the catch: for me to try this, I would have to be convinced that it would be the best/only solution to Dio's specific sleep issues.

I was talking with several women friends--all mothers of several children, all people whose input I respect--after a particularly terrible night. Two of them did a crying-it-out technique when their babies reached a certain age. It took about a week from start to finish, and their babies then slept all the way through the night, very soundly. They said it was really, really hard for them to listen to. But they knew that it would be over soon. (They both suggested having him checked for an ear infection, which I haven't done yet. He doesn't seem to be teething, either.) On the other hand, the third person I talked to had a very different experience: she tried CIO, and her daughter would cry so hard she would pass out. They'd find her lying prone in bed, her face purple.

How can I teach Dio--just 11 months old, too young to understand language--to sleep? Is there another way besides simply letting him cry until he collapses from sheer exhaustion? I cannot function with what we have now. Seriously. I feel this horrible, pressing weight on me from the lack of sleep and associated stress. I start to feel panicky and desperate at night, knowing what's coming. I feel foggy and dizzy during the day. Something needs to change. But how?
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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Writing contest update & giveaway winner

A reminder to enter the Writing Contest before the March 31st deadline!
All entries will have the chance of winning a handmade leather bag (see Writing Contest post for details).

"Mrs. Schaible" is the winner of the Baby Martex Blossoms Diaper Stacker! Please contact me within the next 5 days with your mailing address.
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Friday, March 26, 2010

11 months old!

I can't believe that Dio's birthday is just around the corner! Dio keeps surprising me with how much he's learning and observing. He definitely understands several words and phrases: nurse, clap, jump, I'm going to get you (his cue to crawl away from me as fast as possible), papa, Zari. He still says "uh oh" all the time and makes his lips into an exaggerated "O" shape as he's saying it. He learned how to clap his hands last week, so whenever we say "clap" or the French equivalent "tape les mains," he's happy to oblige.
He got his first haircut this week. I cut the back and around the ears, but left the top alone. See how long it was getting?
The clippers made him ticklish. Here's the end result:
He and Zari have so much fun playing together--when she isn't making him cry by pushig him or taking his toys away. ne of their favorite things is to jump together on the bed. He sits and bounces on his bum, and Zari jumps in circles around him. Childhood wouldn't be complete without jumping on beds. Instead of fighting my kids' urge to jump, I designated a twin mattress on the floor the "jumping bed." They are free to jump to their hearts' content.

We've been eating outside when the weather permits.
I won't be surprised if Dio starts walking soon. We've seen him stand up without holding onto anything twice now (when he's busy playing and doesn't realize he's let go of his support). However, he seems to really like crawling, more than Zari ever did. Here is he crawling underneath a fort we made this morning.

Today was Dio's first day with just one nap. I'm transitioning him over from 2 naps to 1 in preparation for going to France this summer (mid-May to early July). I want him to take just one nap in the afternoon, so we can go out in the mornings and play. He did remarkably well today. By 11 am, he was saying "aaaaaa aaa AAAAAA!" in a way that clearly communicated: "why am I not SLEEPING?!?" I put him down right at noon, and he slept for 2 1/2 hours.

Nights have been terrible, though. Right after I posted about how Dio suddently started sleeping well, we've had the worst nights since we've been parents. I'll post more about this soon; I want to get your advice and feedback.

Dio loves swings and slides. He can sit on a swing all by himself now. He has a death grip on the chains, and I stay close by spotting him. But he hasn't fallen yet. We're inheriting an old metal swingset from some friends. It has five sets of swings plus a slide. I have a baby swing that I bought at a garage sale last year, so Dio will finally have a swing he can't fall out of. I'm excited to get the swingset--it will allow me to work in the garden while the kids play. The swingset is quite rusty, but a coat of rust-converting primer and then a fun color of spray paint will make it as good as new. Any color suggestions?
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Midwifery in Illinois

I lived in Illinois for three years after completing my PhD coursework at the University of Iowa. Direct-entry midwifery in both Iowa and Illinios was (and still is) illegal. Citizens' groups in both states are currently trying to pass legislation to license Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs). A lot of people have told me that Illinois will probably be the toughest state for legalizing and licensing direct-entry midwifery, since it is the home state of the American Medical Association. I went down to the Illinois state capitol when Zari was a baby to lobby and testify in favor of licensing CPMs. There was a large group of Amish people present on that particular day to support the proposed midwifery bill. At that particular meeting, the home birth supporters got portrayed as religious nut-jobs. None of us were particularly happy about that, the Amish included.

Certified nurse-midwives can attend home births in both states, but Illinois is particularly difficult for home birth CNMs. They have to have a signed collaborative agreement with an OB in order to practice. As you might imagine, this proves incredibly difficult to obtain. One home birth CNM I know approached something like 100 physicians before she found one willing to take her on. And the supervising OB can dictate what the CNM can and cannot do.

Iowa is more friendly to home birth CNMs than Illinois. In Iowa, nurse-midwives are considered independent health care practitioners and do not need any kind of physician supervision or collaborative agreement to attend births. Still, in both states, there are very few home birth CNMs. Only 5 of Illinois' 102 counties have legal home birth attendants. The situation isn't much different in Iowa. This means that most women wanting home births in Iowa or Illinois will have to hire "underground" midwives.

For two fascinating, in-depth looks at contemporary direct-entry midwifery in Illinois, I suggest you read these two articles that just came out this week:

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The BABIES are coming!

Last December I posted about an upcoming documentary, Babies, which follows four different babies around the world during their first year of life. I just learned that it will be released in theaters--quite appropriately--on Mother's Day Weekend! I've never cared about getting a Mother's Day present before, but this year I really really want see this film.

If you haven't seen the trailer yet, you really should:

Here's a bit more about the film, from the official website:
Directed by award-winning filmmaker Thomas Balmès, from an original idea by producer Alain Chabat, Babies simultaneously follows four babies around the world – from birth to first steps. The children are, respectively, in order of on-screen introduction: Ponijao, who lives with her family near Opuwo, Namibia; Bayarjargal, who resides with his family in Mongolia, near Bayanchandmani; Mari, who lives with her family in Tokyo, Japan; and Hattie, who resides with her family in the United States, in San Francisco.

Re-defining the nonfiction art form, Babies joyfully captures on film the earliest stages of the journey of humanity that are at once unique and universal to us all.

USA Today recently featured a review of the film. Click on on the image below to read it.

Disclosure: The company producing Babies asked me to spread word about the film, in exchange for a chance to win prizes such as diapers or strollers. I don't need those items, but I wanted to share the film anyway. I can't wait to see it!
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Currently reading

When I visit the library, I spend most of my time in the children's section. Zari and Dio play with toys, while I sit in a rocking chair and read magazines. At the very end, we run upstairs and I have about 30 seconds to find things for myself to read. Which means that I often come out with a strange assortment of books. Here's what my last trip to the library yielded. I went upstairs searching for The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. The rest were books I pulled off the shelf as I was pushing the kids in the jogging stroller. I call it the "drive-by" technique.

Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream by Carl Elliott. This book is about enhancement technologies and the American sense of self-identity. I've read about a chapter so far and am enjoying it. Well-written, engaging, and informative.

Spirit and Flesh: Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church by James M. Ault, Jr. An ethnographic account of a sociologists who spends 3 years immersed in a Baptist community in Massachusetts. So far the books has been fascinating--kind of like reading about some exotic new culture, even though it's set in the USA--but it's really long and quite detailed and I find myself losing interest if I read too much at once.

Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally by Robert Kourik. More a book for reference than for reading straight through. This author is a really hardcore gardener. Extensive details about how to properly dig a hole, for example. You can't just dig a hole and plant a tree. You have to dig it with the right implement, preferably not a normal shovel. You have to make sure the hole's sides are rough and broken up, rather than smooth, so that the tree's roots will penetrate past where you dug. I don't know if I'd have the time, energy, or material resources to be able to garden the way Kourik recommends...but it's fun looking at nevertheless. Did you know that a beet's roots reach down 6-8 feet deep? Did you know that a winter squash's roots extend 20 feet or more? Did you know that some people have devoted their entire lives to painstakingly excavating and charting the root systems of various plants?

Mother Wove the Morning: A one-woman play by Carol Lynn Pearson. In her quest to reconnect with the feminine divine (or Heavenly Mother), LDS author and playwright Carol Lynn Pearson wrote and then performed this play. She embodies sixteen different women throughout history--some general archetypes, some specific historical figures--who have known or (re)discovered pieces of the feminine divine. She comments about her own process of discovery:
The human family has not always viewed God as male. The earliest accounts speak of God as Mother. What happened? I could not read fast enough. Delight and rage filled me together--delight to learn that male supremacy was a male invention--and rage that no one had ever told me this before, rage that I had been allowed to grow up female in a Motherless house....

One day in early 1989, as I was walking in the hills near my home, the Mother project fell into place in a totally unexpected way: it would be a play, a one-woman play. In it I could embody the women I had met in my search, women who could help to solve the mystery of the loss of the Mother and invite her home....

I anticipate in my hopes and my dreams a time in years to come--who knows how many?--possibly fewer than we thought--in which women and men move solidly toward partnership together, acknowledging in our own way the partnership of our Father and Mother God. In that day we will speak of and sing of and speak to a Creator in whose image we all are made equally. We will look at one another with a new reverence, and "women's work" will be given a respect that is more than lip service.
The New Ecological Home: A Complete Guide to Green Building Options by Dan Chiras. Another fun one to thumb through. Last night I learned how masonry heaters work, read about how to put together a straw bale house, and learned what cob was made of. I wish I could make our own home more ecological. Just not sure what I could actually do. All of our interior and exterior walls are solid brick, so I can't rearrange anything or even add windows or doors easily. I'd love to have a really efficient woodburning stove/fireplace, but our house is built so that all the rooms are quite separate from one another, so there's very little heat flow from room to room. I do need to insulate the attics and crawlspaces and basement more.

Slow Food: Collected Thoughts on Taste, Tradition, and the Honest Pleasures of Food edited by Carlo Petrini. I've only had time to thumb through this one, but I already like it. You can open any page and just start reading; it's a themed collection of short essays, narratives, and reflections (and some recipes too!), most of which are just a few pages long.

Ten Stupid Things Couples Do To Mess Up Their Relationships by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. I agree with the substance of her message, although her method of delivery (especially on the radio) turns me off. I'm amazed at how dysfunctional so many relationships are. You get a good look at some of the many problems in her book, when she quotes people who call in or write in to her. It makes me very thankful for my own relationship and that I grew up in a loving, stable family where we learned basic things like love, trust, commitment, and respect.

The BackYard Orchardist by Stella Otto. Haven't read this one yet. I am going to put in about 10 dwarf fruit trees and wanted a reference book for how to plant and take care of them.
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Stand and Deliver (the book)

This was published in 2005. I wonder why I never came across it until now?

by Emma Mahony
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Infantino sling recall

Last week I saw some fairly alarming headlines about baby slings being linked to infant deaths. As more news emerged, it turns out that it wasn't a blanket warning about slings in general, but a recall of a specific brand of sling, the Infantino SlingRider bag-style sling:
I'll refer you to Dou-la-la's post on this subject, which includes links to many others discussing the recall and pointing out how to use a sling safely.

Bottom line on sling safety:

Your baby sling should mimic the way you naturally hold a baby--either vertically (chest-to-chest), or diagonally (cradled in your arms). You should be able to see your baby's head and face without pulling aside the sling fabric. Your baby should not be in a curled C-position; keep your baby's airway clear by keeping its head extended, rather than tucked into its chest. See this fantastic illustration by Sleeping Baby:

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Applique projects

I first tried my hand at applique a few years ago. We were living in an old Tudor-style Arts & Crafts house that had a real Harry Potter room under the stairs. It was a favorite sleeping place for nieces and nephews. I decided the house needed a set of Hogwarts flags...and this was the result.
The Slytherin flag hung on the door leading to the attic. "It's for naughty children," I would tell my nieces and nephews. I wrote more about making these at Hand-Made, a sewing & craft blog I started (and then neglected) a few years ago.

More recent applique projects include this silk wall hanging.

And my new Second Womb Slings banner, for selling slings at craft fairs and baby expos.
Stitching around each letter was a crazy amount of work. I don't know if I'll ever do something so intricate again.
Silver "sling ring"
Detail of the logo
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Monday, March 15, 2010

Hooked in Harmony: crocheted cotton play food

Hooked in Harmony, one of the Writing Contest Sponsors, sent me a variety of colorful handmade playfood to review!
Zari was so excited when the package arrived. Now we have "play lunch" several times a day.
I chose foods that we eat on a regular basis: carrots, green and purple grapes, sushi, edamame, tomatoes, lettuce, and eggs.

Hooked in Harmony's colorful play foods are hand-crocheted with 100% cotton yarn. I love the craftsmanship of this play food. I've done a some crocheting, enough to make a (very crooked) scarf and a few baby hats, and I know how much time and skill it takes to create such aesthetically pleasing objects.
Hooked in Harmony offers an extensive menu of foods, from sushi to sandwiches, from apples to waffles. For not much more than the cost of the real foods, you can have a full "meal" of natural, washable, non-toxic, and baby-safe play food.
Fruits and Veggies
Lettuce Leaf...................3.50
Cherry Tomato................2.00
Tomato Slice...................4.25
Pickle Slice......................1.75
Set of ringed onion slices....3.25
Cucumber Slice................2.25
Cauliflower Floret.............3.75 for one or 10.75 for three
Broccoli Floret.................4.00 for one or 11.50 for three
Pile of Green Beans...........4.25
Baked Potato..................7.75
Grape Jelly "Slice".............2.75
Strawberry Jelly "Slice".......2.75
Marinara sauce................3.25
Mini bunch of green grapes..5.50
Mini bunch of purple grapes..5.50
Big bunch of green grapes...7.50
Big bunch of purple grapes...7.50
Orange wedge.................3.50
Granny Smith apple slice......3.50
Red apple slice.................3.50
Spinach leaf....................3.75

Bread and Pasta
Whole Grain Bread Slice......5.00 for one piece or 9.75 for two pieces
White Bread Slice..............5.00 for one piece or 9.75 for two pieces
Whole Grain Pocket Bread...4.50
White Pocket Bread...........4.50
Top Hamburger Bun...........5.00
Bottom Hamburger Bun.......5.00
Whole Grain Spaghetti........6.50
White Spaghetti................6.50
Butter Crackers................4.00 for six pieces
Soft Pretzel.....................4.75

Meat/Proteins and Cheese
Ham Slice........................3.25
Turkey Slice.....................3.25
Hamburger Patty...............5.00
Meatballs........................2.00 for one or 5.75 for three
Mini Ham Slices.................4.00 for six
Mini Turkey Slices..............4.00 for six
T-bone Steak...................7.00
Cheddar Cheese Slice.........2.75
Swiss Cheese Slice.............2.75
American Cheese Slice........2.75
Mini Cheddar Slices............3.75 for six
Mini Swiss Slices................3.75 for six
Peanut Butter "Slice"..........2.75
Chicken drumette..............4.75
Chicken drumstick..............6.25
Chicken Nugget.................2.25

Snacks and Dessert
Chocolate Sandwich Cookie...3.00 for one or 5.75 for two
Vanilla Sandwich Cookie........3.00 for one or 5.75 for two
Chocolate Chip Cookie.........5.75 for one or 11.00 for two
Choc. w/ Butterscotch Chips..5.75 for one or 11.00 for two
Cheezy Curlz....................3.75 for three or 6.00 for five
Individual Peach Pie............7.25
Individual Cherry Pie...........7.25
French Fries.....................4.25 for set of 7, add 3.25 for a "fast food" type container
Ranch Dipping Sauce...........4.25
BBQ Dipping Sauce..............4.25

Whole Grain Pancake...........4.25
White Pancake...................4.25
Whole Grain Waffle.............4.25
White Waffle....................4.25
Strawberry Chocolate Waffle.4.25
Butter on Waffle or Pancake..0.50
Sausage Link.....................3.75
Sausage Patty...................3.25
Bacon Strip.......................2.75
Single-Yolk Fried Egg............4.25
Scrambled Eggs..................3.75

Tuna Nigiri........................4.50
Salmon Nigiri.....................4.50
Shrimp Nigiri.....................4.75
California Roll....................5.00
Spicy Tuna Roll..................5.00
Avocado Roll.....................5.00
Edamame.........................5.00 for set of three
Dollop of Wasabi................2.50
Ginger Shavings.................2.75
Small Dish of Soy Sauce........4.25
Be sure to enter the Writing Contest before March 31, 2010. One of the winners will receive their choice of $25 of play food from Hooked in Harmony.

Hooked in Harmony has over 25 years of crocheting experience and puts those skills to use making cotton play food.  Hooked in Harmony makes life-size play food to fit everyone's appetite and offers everything from fruit to french fries and from sushi to sandwiches.  They are inspired by common, everyday foods that most children are familiar with.  They can be reached at
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rental house pictures

Now for something completely unrelated to birth, breastfeeding, or parenting... 

Here are slideshows of the three apartments in the house we purchased in January. We've already found renters for two of the apartments, starting April 1st!

Apartment 1
Apartment 2
Apartment 3

Apartment 1 is totally repainted. The other two are still a bit ho-hum, but I plan to repaint them in the near future. I'm just not a fan of off-white.

Eric has now repaired somewhere between 30 and 40 burst pipes throughout the house. He thinks he finally found and repaired the last ones today. The last 10 or so repairs were behind walls and inside ceilings.

Besides more painting, the work is drawing to a close. Just a few toilets, sinks, and blinds to install and a deep clean of the studio apartment. The yard also needs raking and reseeding, and the bushes need trimming. And--just as important, in my perspective--some colorful flowers out front.
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Candid camera

A very tired and very hungry Dio signing "nurse."

Dio saying "uh oh."
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by Carol Lynn Pearson
How enviously
I watched
The rose bush
Bear her bud --
Such an easy
Lovely birth.
At that moment
I wished
The sweet myth
Were true -
That I could
Pluck you
My child
From some
green vine.

But now
As you breathe
Through flesh
That was mine,
Gently in the small circle
Of my arms,
I see
The wisdom
Of investment

The easy gift
Is easy to forget.
But what is bought
With coin of pain
Is dearly kept.
Carol Lynn Pearson is a Mormon author and playwright. Read more about her here.
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NIH VBAC recommendations

I was thrilled to hear that the NIH Consensus Conference on VBAC recommended increasing access to VBAC! Here is a link to the preliminary draft of the consensus statement; the final statement will come out in a few weeks. Here are the conclusions of the conference (emphasis mine):
Given the available evidence, TOL is a reasonable option for many pregnant women with a prior low transverse uterine incision. The data reviewed in this report show that both TOL and ERCD for a pregnant woman with a prior transverse uterine incision have important risks and benefits and that these risks and benefits differ for the woman and her fetus. This poses a profound ethical dilemma for the woman as well as her caregivers, because benefit for the woman may come at the price of increased risk for the fetus and vice versa. This conundrum is worsened by the general paucity of high-level evidence about both medical and nonmedical factors, which prevents the precise quantification of risks and benefits that might help to make an informed decision about TOL versus ERCD. We are mindful of these clinical and ethical uncertainties in making the following conclusions and recommendations.

One of our major goals is to support pregnant women with a prior transverse uterine incision to make informed decisions about TOL versus ERCD. We urge clinicians and other maternity care providers to use the responses to the six questions, especially questions 3 and 4, to incorporate an evidence-based approach into the decisionmaking process. Information, including risk assessment, should be shared with the woman at a level and pace that she can understand. When both TOL and ERCD are medically equivalent options, a shared decisionmaking process should be adopted and, whenever possible, the woman’s preference should be honored.

We are concerned about the barriers that women face in accessing clinicians and facilities that are able and willing to offer TOL. Given the level of evidence for the requirement for “immediately available” surgical and anesthesia personnel in current guidelines, we recommend that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society of Anesthesiologists reassess this requirement relative to other obstetrical complications of comparable risk, risk stratification, and in light of limited physician and nursing resources. Healthcare organizations, physicians, and other clinicians should consider making public their TOL policy and VBAC rates, as well as their plans for responding to obstetric emergencies. We recommend that hospitals, maternity care providers, healthcare and professional liability insurers, consumers, and policymakers collaborate on the development of integrated services that could mitigate or even eliminate current barriers to TOL.

We are concerned that medico-legal considerations add to, as well as exacerbate, these barriers. Policymakers, providers, and other stakeholders must collaborate in the development and implementation of appropriate strategies to mitigate the chilling effect of the medico-legal environment on access to care.

High-quality research is needed in many areas. We have identified areas that need attention in response to question 6. Research in these areas should be prioritized and appropriately funded, especially to characterize more precisely the short-term and long-term maternal, fetal, and neonatal outcomes of TOL and ERCD.
I anticipate a flood of articles and blogs in response to this statement. Please post links in the comments section to any you find interesting. In the meantime, here are two that I enjoyed reading:

Draft NIH Consensus Statement Released on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Delivery by Laurie Barclay, MD from Medscape News

Panel urges more choice in birth after C-section from the LA Times

New links:
Once a Cesarean, Rarely a Choice at RH Reality Check by Gina Crosley-Corcoran, aka The Feminist Breeder 

Over at The Unnecesarean, Courtroom Mama commented how the NIH panel was unwilling to confirm a pregnant woman's right to refuse surgery--the right that every other adult has without question. She included a transcript from Susan Jenkins' questioning the panel. Be sure to read this.

Amy Romano at Science & Sensibility asks: Do women need to know the uterine rupture rate to make informed choices about VBAC?

Dr. Fischbein, an OB/GYN in southern California, weighs in on his experience attending the conference.

PinkyRN, a L&D nurse currently taking some time off and going to midwifery school, doesn't think that access to VBAC will actually increase.

WebMD: Let More Women Give Labor a Try, Experts Urge

A 7-time VBAC mama calls for VBAC mamas to unite

Dou-la-la thinks the NIH VBAC Conference could have used more shrimp (read to find out what she means!)

And lots more links at Bellies and Babies: The First Cut is The...

Nicholas Fogelson, aka Academic OB/GYN, argues that the problem is liability, and that liability is not rational. So no matter how rational all arguments for VBAC all, liability ends up winning anyway. He proposes micro tort-reform as a potential solution to the VBAC liability issue.
The problem is that liability is not rational.  Its based predominantly on completely irrational ideas that every bad outcome is somebody’s fault and that compensation must somehow be made.

The discussion at NIH is very rational, as are most of the arguments being made for VBAC availability.  The problem is that our history of lawsuits for uterine ruptures is completely irrational, as is the current situation with liability insurers.  The sad but simple reality is that many doctors and hospitals can’t provide VBAC because their liability carriers refuse to cover them if they do them, and without liability coverage medicine cannot be practiced in this country.  This is irrational, but it is real.

On one side we have lots of very rational arguments we can all get around, and on the other we have a completely irrational but very real issue that is the actual cause of the problem.
He proposes a national, uniform informed consent document that is federally protected. Really interesting idea. While I think it's not fair that someone would have to sign this kind of form for a VBAC and not for every other possible labor complication, I recognize that it's pragmatic.

The Well-Rounded Mama argued why VBAC bans are a violation of human rights
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

First word and sign

Two days ago Eric taught Dio his first word:

"Uh oh."

Now whenever he throws or drops something, he says a soft little "oh oh." He says it all day long: dropping his food off his high chair at mealtime, throwing a ball into the water during mother-baby swimming lessons, holding onto our bedframe at night.
Then today, I was getting ready to nurse him for his afternoon nap. He was wrapped up in his blanket, and I unhooked my nursing bra. I said, "Dio, are you ready to nurse?" He laughed and started patting his face so enthusiastically that he was practically hitting himself. (I made up my own sign for "nurse": patting my lips. I don't like the ASL sign, which looks like you're milking a cow. Thanks but no. I am not a cow.)

I wondered if this was a fluke, so I tried it again at bedtime. I asked & signed if he wanted to nurse. He started laughing and hitting his face again. Definitely on purpose.
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Monday, March 08, 2010

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day--a time to celebrate women's achievements and to honor the women in our lives.
I found a particularly touching IWD post by Gisele Bundchen, called A gift from life. She wrote:
I grew up witnessing my mother always trying her best at doing all she could for the 6 of us girls. My mom devoted her entire life to her family and did it with such grace. She couldn’t have been more of a loving and caring mother. She is my hero. She is the reason why I believe that a woman is the core of a family… I can only hope to be for my kids what she will and always be for us… Our Rock.

Being committed to building a family, becoming a mother and raising a child with love and awareness is for me, the single biggest responsibility a woman could have. Giving birth was the most intense and life-changing experience of my life. I am blessed to have been able to have a home birth surrounded by love, where I was able to feel safe. It was a powerful experience. I never felt so vulnerable but so strong at the same time. It was amazing to experience my body become free to do what it was made to do by allowing my mind and my body to let go and be free to experience the changes taking place within… I was just there… focusing on my breathing and relaxing the best that I could… so present, to witness the biggest miracle in my life happen before my very own eyes. To give life to another being, what a gift!
Read the rest here. (And I'm loving Gisele's blog--it combines mothering, conscious living, and environmental stewardship.)
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Looking for full text of two articles (updated)

Update: Thanks to everyone who sent me the articles! If anyone would like to read them, I'd be happy to pass them along to you.

If you have access to the full text of these articles, could you email me? My university subscription doesn't include these



Symon, A., Winter, C., Inkster, M., & Donnan, P. (2009). Outcomes for births booked under an independent midwife and births in NHS maternity units: matched comparison study. British Medical Journal, BMJ 2009;338:b2060.

Kennare RM, Keirse MJNC, Tucker GR, Chan AC. Planned home and hospital births in South Australia, 1991–2006: differences in outcomes. Medical Journal of Australia. 2010;192:76-80.
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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Small blessings

A week or two ago, I was feeling truly desperate from lack of sleep. Dio was waking up even more than usual, sometimes every hour and a half. And I didn't feel much hope for the near (or semi-near) future, since Zari woke up every 2-3 hours at night until she was 20 months old.

And then this week, out of the blue, Dio started sleeping 5-hour stretches at night, sometimes even twice in a row. Take last night: He went to bed at 7 pm and started fussing around 10:30 pm (his usual time to wake up). We let him cry for a few minutes to see if he'd fall back asleep. He did. He woke up a bit after midnight, came into bed with me, and nursed back to sleep. And then we both slept until 5 am! I nursed him again and then had to use a bit of coaxing to get him back to sleep. He woke up for the morning a bit before 7 am.

It was not the world's best sleep, but having that one 5-hour stretch was wonderful. For those of you who have been in my shoes, you know how nice that feels

And an extra bonus--Dio woke up this morning completely dry. A first for him!
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Writing contest, prizes and giveaway!

Topic: Becoming a Parent, Becoming Transformed
Genre: Your choice (first-person narrative, short story, informational article, etc.)
Length: 500-1,000 words
Deadline: entries must be received by March 31, 2010
Submission instructions: Send your essay and contact information to One entry per person, please. Entry must be your own original, unpublished material.
~ $50 gift certificate to Second Womb Slings
~ handmade hat (up to $40 value) from Paper Raisins
~ handknit wool soaker (up to $35 value) from Monkey Muffin Creations
~ $25 worth of handmade play food from Hooked in Harmony
Writing contest details: Please reflect on one specific aspect of becoming a parent that has transformed you in some way. It could be about anything from struggling with infertility to giving birth to raising an exceptionally spirited child. The winning entries will be published at Stand and Deliver.

To encourage you to participate in the writing contest, I am offering two giveaways!

Giveaway #1: 
This cotton diaper stacker is part of the Baby Martex Blossoms collection. It can hold up to 30 diapers and is machine washable.
How to enter: Spread word about the Writing Contest on your blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The more places you post, the more chances you have to win! Please post the Writing Contest instructions (included above), a link to this post, and the Writing Contest logo if possible (html code available on the sidebar). Include a separate comment for each entry, please.
Deadline: March 24, 2010

Giveaway #2: 
Handmade leather bag ($90 value)
Carry your things in style with this handmade genuine leather bag. It is a glossy mahogany brown with decorative topstitching.
How to enter: submit a Writing Contest entry to The winner will be chosen at random on April 1, 2010 (no joke!).
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Writing contest sponsor: Hooked in Harmony

I am pleased to announce our newest writing contest sponsor: Hooked in Harmony!
Hooked in Harmony has over 25 years of crocheting experience and puts those skills to use making cotton play food.  Hooked in Harmony makes life-size play food to fit everyone's appetite and offers everything from fruit to french fries, from sushi to sandwiches.  They are inspired by common, everyday foods that most children are familiar with.  They can be reached at
Hooked in Harmony is pleased to offer $25 worth of play food to one of the writing contest winners! 
Are you hungry yet? 
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Saturday, March 06, 2010

ICAN VBAC carnival & NIH VBAC Consensus Conference

I haven't had time to write up an original post for the ICAN VBAC Blog Carnival, but if you search for "VBAC" or click on VBAC or cesarean-related tags, you'll find lots of related posts here.

If you'd like to join the carnival, you can still add your post tonight! Here are the details:
VBAC as a Viable Option

The ICAN Mission, Vision and Statement of Beliefs demonstrate our ongoing commitment to supporting and promoting VBAC as a viable and overall safe option for women birthing after cesarean:

* Birth is a normal physiological process. Research shows that with emotional support, education, and an honest opportunity, the vast majority of women can have a healthy vaginal birth.
* Research shows that VBAC is reasonable and safe for both mother and baby. A repeat cesarean should never be considered routine– it is major abdominal surgery with many risks.
* It is unethical and unenforceable for hospitals to institute VBAC bans. Women have the right to refuse any procedure, including a cesarean.

We invite you to write a blog post on your blog and submit it for inclusion in the carnival.* We will post the carnival on March 8th as the NIH Meetings begin. Here are the instructions for participation:

Topic: Why is VBAC a vital option?
Submissions are due March 6th, 2010
Email your text and link to:

Jill at The Unnecesarean is collecting your input on VBACs. If you have had one ("failed" or "successful"), or want to have one in the future, or care about VBAC even though you have never had a cesarean section, please speak up. Here's what Jill wants to know:

What would you tell someone who thinks it’s a sensible idea to keep risking women out of vaginal birth after a previous cesarean and doesn’t really care about how it actually affects women and their families? What would you tell someone who wants people to believe that the only reason women wouldn’t want a repeat cesarean is because they’re looking for some kind of metaphysical (yes, I keep hearing that one) vaginal birth experience? What message do you have for the obstetrician who put their personal fear of litigation before your health and gave you misleading information?

The NIH is holding a Consensus Conference on VBAC on March 8-10. I wish I could attend in person! In anticipation of this event, Amy Romano has shared some thoughts on practice guidelines. Henci Goer hopes that this NIH conference won't pave the road to hell with good intentions.
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How to make maple syrup

1. Find a sugar maple tree.
2. Wait until the temperatures start to rise above freezing during the day. This just happened last week where I live. You might also notice sap starting to drip from the trees--another sign that it's maple syrup season.
3. Drill a hole in the south side of the tree, angled slightly upwards. I used a 1/2" drill bit.
4. Insert a maple syrup tap and gently hammer in until snug.
5. Attach a container to the tap. I use a short piece of tubing to make sure the sap goes where it should.
6. Collect the sap and strain through a thin cloth (this will filter out insects, bits of bark, etc).
7. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil until all the windows in your house steam up. Keep adding more sap to the pan as the liquid evaporates. You'll be boiling off approximately 25 to 1. For every 25 cups of sap, you'll get about 1 cup of syrup.
8. When it's close to being done, check every 10-15 minutes. You don't want to burn the syrup!
9. The syrup is done when it starts to bubble up and foam.
10. Pour into hot, sterilized jar with a sealing lid such as a canning jar. I also reuse glass jelly and syrup jars. Refrigerate syrup after opening.

I installed these taps today around noon. The maple tree was big enough for two taps. By 7 pm, I had collected 3 gallons of sap; this yielded 1 cup of maple syrup. It's delicious!
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