Mom Tip: Empty Tote Goes in Your Car!

You finally return to your house after a long outing with your kids. You got a lot done. You ran the errands you needed to tackle. You took the kids to their favorite park. You fed them and wore them out and it was pretty great! You pull into your driveway, feeling accomplished in your day and satisfied at a job well done. You park the car and turn to give your kids a look of peace. It’s quickly wiped from your face when you see that the car has imploded all of its contents. Snacks are everywhere. Toys are everywhere. Shoes are everywhere. Kids clothes are everywhere (despite everyone still being dressed. Did their shirts replicate??).

Sound like a familiar scene (familiar meaning experienced every. single. day.)? I was so fed up with having to deal with car debris that I started leaving a tote bag in there at all times. And let me tell you, it has helped me deal! Keeping a bag in your car makes for a quick round up of all the annoying tidbits that your kids shed.

Any bag will do, but if you’re a knitter, this bag is fantastic. It expands like crazy, is super easy to make, and is durable, especially if you use cotton yarn.

Baby Shower Game: Where Do Babies Come From?

This baby shower game is hilarious. Word to the wise hostess: use cautiously, and with the right crowd! A family shower would definitely not jive with this idea. But a close-knit shower with goofy friends or even a co-ed shower with couples who know each other well would be perfect.

  • Download and print the printable below on cardstock.
  • Cut each sheet in half.
  • Each guest gets a game card and writes where they think the baby was conceived.
  • Hand the cards in and have mom-to-be (or couple) read off the guesses.
  • She then chooses a winner at her own discretion – either one that’s closest to the truth or one that makes her laugh the hardest. Her choice!

Winner gets a prize and everyone gets a laugh! Enjoy – but remember, don’t play this game with grandma!

Taking a Second Look at Co-Sleeping

I was just about 36 weeks pregnant and had just finished a hypnobirthing practice in preparation for labor. I was in our bedroom on this peaceful afternoon. My mind had been cleared.

And then I panicked.

Crap. I still don’t know how we’ll sleep our baby!

The thought had been looming over my head for months. I knew what experts said about suffocating or strangling your baby. My goodness, I was as jarred as any other mom would be by that warning. But I was still internally conflicted. I couldn’t justify putting my baby over there when I was over here. This makes no sense. He’s inside of me. I haven’t even met him, yet I feel so close to him. My gut was telling me the exact opposite of what pediatricians everywhere were declaring. That’s why I was panicking.

What do I do?!

I called a friend and she calmed me down. She helped me realize my conflict was because the advice I was hearing was contradicting what I knew to be right. That my intuition was screaming at me and that I needed to listen. That the advice from others was so jolting because it was based on fear, which is not how I wanted to begin motherhood.

Intuition is one thing and gets discredited with dire consequences. But the experts make a point based on data and experience. There are instances of these awful accidents occurring. So: which one do you listen to? Real facts or nameless intuition?

I listened to both.

I don’t necessarily think anyone is declaring this, but co-sleeping is not evil. It has been getting a bad rap only in recent history, and only in the West. Co-sleeping is how mothers slept their children since the dawn of man. Around the world, the majority of people and cultures still co-sleep, and it’s the norm. We don’t tend to see it often in the West, because the West predominantly uses cribs or bassinets to sleep their children. I’m not going to make an argument that these containers are wrong, just that my intuition can’t be far off if it is leading me towards a path that has been trod before by SO many mothers.

But to avoid becoming another tragic statistic, I read, and read, and read. I read Sleeping with Your Baby by Dr. James McKenna (see here). I read about his mother-infant sleep research and his advocacy for the family bed. I read The Baby Sleep Book by Dr. William Sears (see here) and about his (albeit informal) observations of his wife sleeping with their baby. How she seemed to regulate baby’s breathing with her breathing, how she roused when he stirred, and seemed to have this 6th sense sort of maternal awareness.

I read about how to safely co-sleep, namely:

  • Moving our mattress to the floor
  • Forgoing our cozy down comforter in favor of thin, breathable layers (thin quilts and knit blankets)
  • Ditching our excess bedding and throwing unneeded pillows in the closet
  • Kicking our cat out of the bedroom overnight (sorry, Lord Byron)
  • Simplifying our nightstands: no cords, no extras, books and lamp only (they were also light and simple, like these, and moved easily to avoid dangerous crevices).

Putting this all together, there is a balance between listening to the experts and heeding their warnings while also following your gut and heeding your intuition. Settled and committed to co-sleeping, my husband and I didn’t even buy a crib, because I knew we’d never use it. Five years and three kids later, it turned out to be the right choice. In some of our living arrangements, I’m not sure where we would’ve even put it!

This all made me realize, though, that there is a clear and marked difference between prepared co-sleeping and spontaneous co-sleeping, which is dangerous. Spontaneous co-sleeping is when accidents happen. I believe those accidents can be avoided if we stop this trench warfare between medical experts and crunchy millennial moms. If all a pregnant woman is told prior to labor is to never, ever co-sleep, she will never, ever research how to safely co-sleep. She will write it off as something that she will not do – until her baby is two months old, and she hasn’t slept for more than three hours at a time and she knows all she needs to do is lay down on the couch and just close her eyes for a second… what is a mom to do? We demonized all forms of co-sleeping from the beginning and now she doesn’t have the tools to know how to respond in this situation. She ill-prepared and ill-equipped to fulfill the needs of herself and her baby.

Am I crazy or is it a GOOD desire for baby to want to sleep mom, and mom to want to be with baby? I don’t know why we don’t use our logical brains to create more BOTH AND solutions, rather than suppressing our natural instincts. Making this decision for myself and my family felt like power. I’m MOM: I get to be the one who decides these things based on the information I’m given. Because I care the most. I have the biggest investment. And I’m going to know this baby and our family better than anyone else. I have a brain and a gut instinct and both of those matter.

So: off I went 3 weeks later to the labor and delivery ward in active labor. I had our beautiful baby boy and when I got my baby care tips talk from the discharging nurse and she told me under no circumstances was I to co-sleep (I hear some hospitals have contracts now), I nodded and smiled. I didn’t need to hear again the fear-based ideology from someone not raising my child. That’s what we gut-following-despite-external-advice moms learn to do from the beginning.

Then, I went home and exercised safe and careful co-sleeping with my newborn.

And I enjoyed it. I felt balanced. Physiologically and hormonally balanced.

And my son never had to cry. I was always there for his early cues.

And he nursed around the clock and grew beautifully, yet I did not feel drained.

And I maximized my sleep in a phase I was far from family and sometimes my husband (#navylife).

And the cat continued to be mad. But I digress.

I know co-sleeping isn’t popular, and I myself have felt the need to keep it under the radar to avoid the awkwardness of others’ opinions. But I think we need to talk about it. I know the family bed and other versions of co-sleeping aren’t for everyone. Totally. Awesome. I get that. But more moms need to know that it’s an option. I hope to write more posts in the near future, including:

  • Research on SIDS and co-sleeping (Is there any? I’m going to find out!)
  • More on safe co-sleeping and how to prepare your bedroom
  • Parental concern about kids learning independence. This is the concern of many: if my kid sleeps with me all the time, how will they learn independence in sleep and in life?

What else should we be discussing?

How Google Replaced Grandma

Google Replaced Grandma! Here's the solution.

If you’ve had a kid in the last ten to fifteen years, you would be lying if you said you’ve never Googled at least once concerning your child.

When should my kid….?

What is this…. on my kid?

How do I….?

Our first child was born in Japan in Yokosuka Naval Hospital. We did not have the room for a mother or mother-in-law to stay with us in our tiny Japanese house nor did we think we needed the extra help. I was fiercely independent at the time and thought it would be too much stress to host a family member AND have a kid.

Oh, did I miss out.

Just weeks after the birth my husband deployed and it was solely up to me to observe, contemplate and diagnose the symptoms that came from every pore of my sweet little baby. I was a studious mom leading up to labor, and I knew about the stages of poop, the immediate weight loss and need to feed throughout the night. But no amount of reading can prepare you for the fire hose of seemingly critical symptoms that exude from your kid. With the absence of a grandma to calm the irrational fears that every mother feels, I did what every other millennial does: I turned to Google.

Some of my early google searches included:

What does Whooping Cough sound like?

Are vaccines dangerous?

When should my child turn over on his own?

What is a normal sized postpartum blood clot?

When do babies get their first tooth?

Symptoms of Mastitis

Does my baby have ACNE?!

BAH!

I felt like the lady in Gilman’s The Yellow Room at times. Stuck in my lonely room, with only myself for intelligent conversation. I was alone in a foreign country, without a husband, without family, physically too weak to go out for long periods of time. This baby was all I had to focus on, and I got a little crazed at times.

With the low percentage of paternity leave available and the family sprawl that exists in America, I know that my situation is interesting but not unique. A lot of women feel the pains of isolation after giving birth. This is what leads to postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, baby blues, and the alarming trend of postpartum psychosis. The Yellow Room.

And what did I rely on? Google.

And I’m not alone! Which is scary, considering the limitations of Google. Google is a great resource, but it’s also a terrible resource. Who can you trust online? What is real and what is just a joke? Who out there is good at sounding confident but essentially has no idea what they’re talking about? How do you filter good information from bad information? I wouldn’t have had to Google eighty percent of what I did if I had swallowed my pride and asked my mom to be there with me. Matriarchal heritage is a normal thing around the world and throughout history, for good reason. The grandma provides the balance a new mom needs and is able to give her the direction to focus on the things that matter. Unless you’ve done it before, raising a baby doesn’t usually come naturally.

Unfortunately, the option for grandma to stay for an extended amount of time becomes less and less available to women. Even if a new mother has a good relationship with her own mother, grandma might have a career she can’t leave, live too far away, or their family dynamic doesn’t foster this kind of support. The silver bullet that is grandma is tough to fill with anything or anyone else.

But: postpartum doulas are a close second.

Postpartum doulas have the breadth of experience and the professional training to calm those initial fears and guide a new mom towards where she needs to focus, just like grandma. Many doulas call themselves “experts in normal.” They are able to calm those fears and temper the mind of a new mother. Before long, she is able to regain her center and move forward through the postpartum process.

Obviously: grandma knows you best, and the emotional connection you have with her cannot be replaced by anyone else. This is why in many other cultures, Postpartum Mental Illnesses (PMI) are rarely an issue, because grandmas stay with their daughters and bring peace and balance to a new mama’s life. The benefits of grandma living-in far outweigh the stress I imagined I would feel.

Although a postpartum doula will likely not have a life-long connection with you, they are proven to shine by pulling mama out of The Yellow Room and arresting the pitfall of PMIs that can ensnare a new mother. Most PMIs require treatment to go away, so postpartum doulas’ abilities to identify and confront PMIs are crucial before they become too serious. They can encourage a mother who is otherwise oblivious or anxious to seek professional help and to discuss it with their doctor. And because they have experienced many women’s journeys into motherhood, they have seen all the angles PMIs can come from. Where postpartum depression may be hard to identify, a postpartum doula will be able to catch it.

Google has replaced grandma. Let’s replace Google with postpartum doulas.

See our other posts in this series on the why and how of our business:

Google Replaced Grandma! Here's the solution.

Mom Tip: Make Your Own Vegetable Stock at Home!

How to Make your Own Vegetable Stock at Home!

This is simply the easiest yet most useful and versatile thing you’ll make in your kitchen: vegetable stock!

If you make rice regularly, or any other whole grains (bulgur, couscous, farro, quinoa, etc…), then vegetable stock is something you should try at least once. It adds so much more flavor than water! This has become so ingrained in our lives because we love it and need it that much. Here’s my process:

1) I keep a gallon-sized baggie in my freezer at all times and add vegetable scraps as I go. As I chop veggies for dinner, all the ends, guts, skins and seeds get thrown in the bag. It makes dinner prep really easy – no trips to the garbage can.

2) When the bag is full or I’m out of stock, I dump a bagful of scraps into a stock pot and fill it with water.

How to Make your Own Vegetable Stock at Home!
How to Make your Own Vegetable Stock at Home!

3) I bring this pot to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for at least 1 hour (the longer you let it boil down, the more concentrated and yummy it becomes).

How to Make your Own Vegetable Stock at Home!

4) Then I strain all the scraps out (an Asian ladle strainer would be perfect for this, but any utensil with holes works just fine) and store! I measure 2 cups at a time to put in small plastic containers. This makes it easy to quickly throw it in a pot with a cup of rice.

How to Make your Own Vegetable Stock at Home!
How to Make your Own Vegetable Stock at Home!

5) Then, I pull stock from the freezer as needed. I try to thaw what I need overnight in the fridge before dinner prep the next day.

I use this stock for all kinds of things and it really does add flavor. Plus, depending on your scraps, it turns out different every time (beets make it purple!). I replace the water with stock in savory whole grains dishes and use it in soups and stews – any recipe that calls for broth or stock. I can’t even remember the last time I bought broth or stock from the grocery store.

I love the benefits:

  • Store-bought stocks and broths are notoriously sodium-dense. In this stock, there’s no added salt and you can control the sodium content in your final recipe.
  • Added flavor. Substitute stock and your whole grains will be more flavorful.
  • It’s free! And a great way to be resourceful with your vegetable scraps.

A few notes:

  • I do not add tomatoes or tomato guts, egg shells, meat or bones. I also get enough scraps regularly and don’t bother to pull carrot and potato peels from my sink. Too much work.
  • I add two gallon-sized bags of scraps at a time because my pot is big enough. Add only as much as is appropriate for your size stock pot.

I hope you enjoy this stock as much as we do and it can serve your kitchen well!

How to Make your Own Vegetable Stock at Home!
How to Make your Own Vegetable Stock at Home!