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.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More Sleep Sagas

Naturally, the Babe slept for a full 6 hours the other night as I was blogging about his lack of sleep. He hasn't done it since and probably never will again, but I am going to start talking/writing about sleep constantly just in case.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy toxic-free New Year!

Now that the Babe is putting everything in his mouth I'm even more concerned about the manufacturing processes and ingredients of the products he comes in contact with - literally. Here are two great new finds that are definitely worth passing on:

1. Lovies by Bubbie Blue
Now this is a product I can get behind! First, my very dear friend Christa is one of the two co-founders, and secondly because their sweet lovies are crafted for the sleep-deprived like me! Lovies are "transitional objects" - a blanket or a toy - to help your child "make the emotional transition to seeking an alternate source of comfort." Bubbie Blue's Lovies are handmade - love that! - and made of 100% organic cotton jersey and non-toxic dyes.

2. Schoolhouse Naturals by Maple Landmark
Schoolhouse Naturals are a new spinoff from the Montgomery Schoolhouse line produced by Maple Landmark, a company based in Middlebury, VT. My Dad just sent the Babe three wooden baby rattles from the Montgomery line that are so sweet (thanks Dad!). One has bells, one has discs and another has beads. They are fashioned of hard maple and have no added chemicals and are finshed with bright, non-toxic whey finish. (The new Naturals line has finishes available in either whey or beeswax.) What I love best is how simple these "toys" are and what a lovely reminder of the fact that babies don't need tons of stimulation (have you ever seen how they stare at their fingers for seemingly hours on end?).

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sleep Sagas

© Rohit Seth -

In my circle of mommy friends, it is widely known that the Babe is not a big sleeper. It now strikes me as ironic that when he was a week or so old, I almost paid good money for a book with a chapter on sleepy babies; when we first brought him home I was in a flat panic because he slept too much. Too much. I don't think I'll ever utter those words again. As he has become more alert, he has discovered that the world is entirely fascinating and doesn't want to miss anything. He's now approaching six months and we've tried every trick in the book (rocking, nursing, making weird sshhhing sounds directly in his ear), except crying it out. (You can tell which books I've read right? Baby Whisperer, Dr. Sears, Healthy Sleep Habits ...)

Naturally, I wonder how much our living situation contributes to his sleeplessness. The Babe is strong enough now to get into a push up position and throw his head back far enough so his little eyes peer over the crest of the crib. On alternate nights he'll either be in such a deep slumber he is not roused by an ambulance or he'll wake up at the sound of my typing. When he wakes I can sometimes pat him on the back and he'll doze back off. We did try not to make eye contact, but the moment he spies us, it's over. He lets out a winper that I swear means, If you're not sleeping, I'm not! Usually though once he's awake it starts the whole going to sleep process over again. Exhausting!

Here are some of the things we've tried to make the Pod as sleep-friendly as possible:

1. To substitute for black out shades, we draw our shades. It doesn't get pitch black during the day because the Pod faces East and is literally sun-drenched but it does get dim enough to induce a yawn or two.

2. At night when it is dark out, we keep one strategically placed light on near our bed by the kitchen. The fixture is on the opposite side of our L shaped studio from his crib so it doesn't shine directly on him. It provides us just enough light to eat dinner, check email and (maybe) have a conversation.

3. The hall light is another matter - that shines brilliantly into the crib like a police car's flood light. The crib is positioned in a little nook to the right of our linen closet, so when the linen closet is open - voila! - it blocks a good portion of the light. We use this trick when one of us comes home at night and doesn't want to walk into the wall.

4. We no longer watch TV with the sound on. (Are wireless headsets green?) And just lately we've taken to not watching at all because I was convinced the flashing lights emanating from the screen were flickering in his face.

These tactics have gotten us to month 5 and so far it's been liveable but we have taken for granted that young babies tend to sleep through the occasional ambulance, shutting door and other not-so ambient sounds. It means we can't have anyone over after 7 pm (bedtime) because conversations are limited to a hushed staccato of words. It also means I've been nervous to hire a babysitter because how exactly do you explain to someone that I might be paying you $15 to sit in the dark for a few hours. Just typing it sounds utterly ridiculous. (For the recond, I was typing very lightly.)

Most nights we can go about our business as usual. I make dinner, but I'm careful not to clang plates and I don't dream of loading or running the dishwasher. Whispering sweet nothings has new meaning in my life! You certainly can't have an argument, let alone a heated conversation when you're whispering.

We were initially planning to stay in the Pod until 2010 but not sure if we're going to make it.