Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Saturday Without The New York Times

We can't be the only ones. The week before last - and after nearly 10 years as loyal subscribers - we said bubye to the weekend edition of the gray lady, The New York Times. It's not that we're not big fans of the paper; I still read it online. I blame it on the coffee table.

When we bought the Pod a couple of years ago, the couple who sold it to us generously gave us several pieces of furniture, including a large, square glass coffee table. It was about 35" x 35" and took up a big chunk of the "living room" (that is, the area in front of the TV). When the Babe started to get mobile and his rolling turned to an army crawl, and then an on-all-fours sprint, we knew we had to part ways. Someone from Craigslist made off with it for $75 - lucky her.

Unlucky us. The coffee table was where we convened on Saturday mornings with our lattes, bagels and the paper all spread out. Everyone who reads the Times has their individual way of digging through its innards. I always read the Real Estate section first. Heck, if I can't live in a bigger apartment, at least I wanted to suss out how the other half lives. I'd then skim the Book Review and dive into the magazine. Our ritual slowly gave way to chasing after our scooting baby and with it our leisurely morning. Most weekends now the paper lays in the entryway forgotten. All that paper, wasted. On top of that, when they killed the Metro section last fall they chipped away at my husband's loyalty. That was his favorite section.

I'm not sure the $10 a month or whatever it is we're saving is worth it but I do feel a lot less guilty not having to take the walk of shame to the recyclin bin every Sunday night with a neatly wound paper in tow. Plus, I've been pining for a Kindle (gee, isn't Mother's Day tomorrow!) and maybe I can justify getting one with all that dough we're saving.

Spikes, Javelins and Discus Oh My!

The irony about writing about trying to not consume a lot of stuff is the accumulation of sports gear we've packed into the Pod. I think we could open up our very own sporting goods store. I should be clear that this is not because of my own athleticism - all I contribute are a couple of pairs of running shoes - but rather my husband's slight addiction to picking up new sports like it's his job.

Today he'll be completing the second portion of a decathlon, so we've got all sorts of shoes and whatnot strategically arranged around the 525 square feet that is our home. In case you're wondering, a decathlon includes the following events:

100 meter dash
Long jump
Shot put
High jump
400 meter dash
110 meter hurdle
Pole vault
1500 meters

That's a lot of shoes! And yes, we have a full size javelin that lines the side of the Pod and even practice hurdles that we've managed to stash away somehow. I'm blogging right now while he's packing up his stuff; we've got a load of laundry going and trying to occupy the Babe with Baby Einstein. It's chaos! Here, take a look:

Spikes, spikes and more spikes!

(New Balance, Nike - you can thank us anytime you'd like)

The shot put and discus

And for the grand finale ... a 9 foot long javelin
(you should see the looks he gets on the subway with that thing)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Broadcast Your Birth

When I was very pregnant I watched as many episodes of TLC's "A Baby Story" as I could. I observed two things:
1. many of the birth stories were of couples in the state of NJ (how's that for diverse represenation)
2. many of the couples expressed a desire for minimal intervention but ended up having meds or a c section

Obviously, the importance of having a healthy birth is paramount and a c section is a real blessing, but it did feel like there were very few stories that actually were low intervention. That bothered me. I needed to fill my head with as many confidence-building stories as I could find to know that a natural birth was possible. I read Peggy Vincent's "Baby Catcher" in a matter of days.

I've chroncicled (in sparse detail to preserve some privacy) my birth story on here before, so won't go into that but I have been intrigued lately by the debate about birthing videos on YouTube that illustrate a broader need for realistic (that is, not reality TV versions) birthing stories.

But first, because I am a market researcher afterall, a couple of fun facts/observations:
1. 2.5 million people have searched for "YouTube births" (Google tells me). Another 46 million have searched for "birthing video" and other iterations of the same search query. I don't know the time period in which these searches are measured, but that's a stunning number of people who seem to be seeking "real" images of the birthing experience. (I'm sure there are some lurkers out there with other intentions too but let's just put that aside.)

2. It's educational for other reasons. There is a short article on The New York Times website today about a navy engineer who delivered his own child (the couple's fourth) after having watched a few semi-instructional videos on YouTube.

I was kind of surprised then by the results of a Parenting magazine poll which asked: Posting your birth video on YouTube: great or gross?. Overwhelmingly readers chose "gross" - 92% in fact. (I don't see an n here so this could reflect the sentiment of 100 or 12,000 people. Of the 16 comments posted on in response to the same question, I counted 10 comments saying it was "gross" and 6 for "great" so the data do seem a bit dodgy.) What I found wholly compelling was the subtext - responses seemed to fall neatly into four categories - four P's if you will:

Women said the YouTube content allowed them to feel Prepared. Of those that thought it was gross, they often claimed it was a very Personal and Private experience better preserved in personal archives. But the subtext was the heart of the story. Many said that while they weren't comfortable with sharing their own intimate experience, if other women did then more Power to them. I wish the Parenting headline would have captured that because I think it's an important message that ought to be conveyed. As women, we need to stick together on issues of how to birth our babies and how to feed our babies (as basically the same debate is taking place on breastfeeding in public). There needs to be room for debate, but we need to hold each other up when we make different decisions. We need to empower each other, not suggest that what you might be posting on YouTube is "gross."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Economic Coping Mechanism: Hulu

The economy has done nothing but affirm for me our decision to live in 525 square feet of affordable, if not a little cramped, bliss. Ok bliss is a strong word, especially as I literally hurled the contents of my overstuffed closet onto the floor in a fit while trying to find my gloves this morning.

Everyone's talking a lot about coping mechanisms these days. People are coupon clipping and downloading with fervor, forgoing that weekly manicure and so on. My coping mechanism is not frugal and not even really green, but it keeps me sane. I'm in love with Hulu, and basically any other current cultural content I can download onto my trusty laptop.

A friend had a copy of Rachel Getting Married (from a SAG member) that we watched recently. Now, when I saw "watched" it is very important for you to get a visual of what I mean. We (two grown adults) lay on our bed in complete darkness with a laptop sandwiched in the middle and a pair of iPod earbuds between us. We couldn't move more than a couple of inches apart or else the other viewees earbud would pop out.

So, bliss, this may not be but at least we're not overextended and that feels pretty good right now.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Maybe We Can All Rest Assured?

Back in May I posted about our decision to buy a Naturepedic organic cotton mattress for the Babe. There is an interesting article in The New York Times today sourcing toxicologists who suggest that standard mattresses probably don't "leach out" chemicals in quite the scary way we might have thought.

The challenge is that while outter layers may be made with natural fibers, there is no telling what lies beneath. Manufacturers were contacted for the article but few were able to give specifics on the actual composition. Unlike the food industry, which regulates at least the claims "organic" (there are no regulations for terms like "natural"), the mattress market does not require manufacturers to meet certain criteria to use a claim.

The accompanying chart lists many of the products currently on the market, their marketing claims and actual contents. The Naturepedic faired pretty well, because polyethylene is better than other outter layers but it is noted that it is still a petroleum-based product.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pop Up Living

I was trying to read to the Babe last night. He wants to eat everything in sight these days (yay teething) so we weren't so much reading as I was baby-wrangling while trying to force a little quiet time before bed. The only book that held his attention was "So Big" with Elmo; he giggles when Elmo pops up on the last page.

It reminded me of our living situation, which is a bit like a pop up book in that our belongings are seemingly tucked away, only to burst forth when you open a door or cabinet.

We had friends over on Sunday afternoon and with 5 minutes to spare we were frantically shoving things into the closets and under the crib, trying to hide all evidence to the contrary that the Pod is, in fact, overrun with baby swag. The Gymini mat, which is a feat to collapse because the padded arches spring open with such gusto, put up quite a protest! It took both of us to fold it in half and slide into my hubby's closet. The baby bath, which when not in use leans against the toilet (because aparently we need some help in the home decor department), was tucked neatly in the shower with the curtain drawn. Only the nosiest of nosy guests actually peeks behind the curtain, right?

We've even contemplated installing a murphy bed. That would certainly bring new meaning to the phrase pop up.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Medela Should Have Frequent Flyer Miles

My breastpump has had quite a workout lately. Now that I’m back at work full time and still breastfeeding (almost) exclusively, during those 5 days sandwiched by weekends I pump at regular 3 hour intervals. In other words, when I’m not addressing the needs of my paying clients, I tend to the demands of another customer – the Babe.

Pumping has revealed to me just what a tolerant person I can be (patting self on back). I first got my sea legs in October on a day trip to Boston. I packed up my pump, brought a 4 pack of double A batteries, and headed to LaGuardia. It didn’t occur to me to check with the Boston Logan Airport to see if they had special facilities for mothers and babies; I just assumed I’d have to make do with the handicapped stall. Gross, yes, but I wasn’t ready to give up nursing for one day of hassle. I was delighted to find a clean individual restroom with a table, sink and outlet so I didn’t have to waste my double A’s while pumping my double…well, moving on. I pumped before and after my flights and arrived home with fresh expressed milk (thanks to the Medela freezer compartment) for the Babe’s next day at daycare. At work, I have a similar set up (private room, fridge, etc.), which has made pumping fairly easy to manage. Really, wouldn’t we all get more done if we could hole up in a secret hiding room instead of hanging out at the coffee machine?

But last week was just insane. On Wednesday, I had to schlep to New Jersey (2 hours there + 2 hours back does not a happy mommy make). On Friday morning, I got up at the bright and chipper hour of 4 to fly to Chicago. (Note: O’Hare also has “family” restrooms, which are equipped with changing tables and electrical sockets.) In both instances, I had to ask my client if they had a facility I could use. Thanks to La Leche League and leagues of nursing mothers before me, this is a perfectly acceptable request (and I’ve come to find many companies fall all over themselves to help). And yet, I always feel a twinge of awkwardness. It makes me wonder if they can really take me seriously during a presentation. Of course, I’m picturing them all in their underwear anyway so I guess that makes us even.

The Babe will turn 6 months in a week and I’m debating how much longer I want to keep up these shenanigans. On the one hand, I know it’s a great thing to be able to do (the nutrients, the bonding and whatnot). I’m thankful that despite a pretty rocky start and 5 weeks of pain, that we’ve made it this far. It is also massively convenient not to have to warm a bottle in the middle of the night. On the other, I’ve developed tendinitis in my left shoulder from hauling my pump up and down Manhattan (and up and down the Eastern seaboard!). If it weren't so taboo, I'd take a Motrin.