Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Book Review: The Expectant Father, by Armin Brott

I read more than fifty books about pregnancy, birth, infants, and breastfeeding. This wasn't pregnancy-induced psychosis; I did the same insane research thing before I went to Florence, bought a Miata, got married, etc. I got a library card at age four. I believe that if it's worth knowing, it's in a book somewhere. I distrust the internet. However, if you're willing to trust the internet and you're pregnant/considering pregnancy, allow me to be of some use to you.

If you're going to read just one book about being pregnant and giving birth, the most useful one I can recommend was written for your male partner: Armin Brott's The Expectant Father.

Informational: 4/5
Dad-friendly: 5/5
Hippie stuff: 4/5
Fun: 3/5

Honestly, a lot of the pregnancy books out there are horrific. You have to wade through a ton of insipid fluff about glowing, and biological destiny, and madonna-and-child flavored horse manure. It almost makes sense that the best pregnancy book would be targeted at a male. No male in his right mind will tolerate guilt trips disguised as sacred vessel worship. Also, no self-respecting man is going to read pages and pages of thinly veiled snark at his expense about how men don't do chores unless females fool them into it.

This book assumes that a real man wants to be part of the process, is slightly disturbed by the process and trying to hide that, and would like to knock out the assigned reading in a couple of nights of bedtime page turning. This book suspects that the man holding it may be skimming, and might reach for it at a later date thinking "Hey, didn't that stripey book say something about mood swings?"

It's short, well-organized, kicks off each section with bullet points, assumes that the reader is intelligent, and covers just about everything you find in much, much larger books aimed at women, without hysteria or scare tactics. The advice is practical and simple. Emotional issues are covered without the kind of condescending- towards-females nonsense that other "for the father" books are prone to spewing.

The author is a bit of a sensitive new age guy. In my household, we did not make plaster belly casts, we did not take photos from bizarre angles, and we absolutely did not play special music to the belly. My mate did lean over and whisper "CHEVROLET" at my bulge at every opportunity, lest his son and heir come out a Ford man, but I don't think that counts as the kind of belly worship the author hints at having. Also, in my household, the placenta is considered medical waste, so I knew my mate had reached the page about saving the placenta in the freezer when "WHAT THE HOLY HELL" erupted from the left side of the bed.

But in terms of a solid overview, written sensibly by a man who assumes the reader is an interested partner? Two thumbs up.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

DIY Baby Food

First of all, don't be in too big of a hurry to start your baby on solids. What babies need is milk or formula, and their little bodies aren't developed enough until they're 4-6 months old to get the benefits of anything else.

I like to joke that a baby's ready for solids when they watch you eating with such hungry eyes and drooly mouth that you feel guilty.

Baby food doesn't take much to make. You just need some cooked food or fresh fruit, plus a liquid - like formula or breastmilk. Look at the food combinations on store jars of baby food for ideas: Sweet potato and apple, peas and carrots, turkey and squash. Here's my (our) favorite recipe:

Tropical Treat

1/2 ripe avocado
1/2 ripe banana
1/4 C yogurt or 1/8 C breastmilk or formula

Blend ingredients together until smooth.

I like to mix them in The Magic Bullet. Yeah, I know, what's with the name, right? But I like it for making smoothies and baby food.

Once I'm done blending, I put the extra in an ice cube tray and freeze it. After it's solid, I just pop the little baby food cubes out of the tray and double bag them in labelled ziplock bags I keep in the freezer until I need one. Each portion is about an ounce of baby food, and I usually thaw it by putting it in a bowl which I put in some hot water.

I got my favorite baby food recipe out of this cookbook for kids. A friend of mine gave it to me at my baby shower, and I've used it for 2 babies and it's really been great. She's got recipes for newborns through toddlers with fun ideas for finger foods, snacks and crafts and tons of other parenting tips.

You don't have to be a supermom to make your own baby food, but you'll feel like one when your baby gives you this kind of reaction:

Cause and Effect

Here's a bit of reality about living with a husband and/or children.

Here is a list of causes, followed by the effect they have, which is never the intended effect, and possible solutions.

You've JUST made your bed, and have even straightened and fluffed the pillows.
Your kids are now jumping and rolling on the bed.
Intended Effect:
The bed would stay made.
Scream like a banchee and scare children away.

You've done all the dishes and put them away. You've done so many dishes, there's nothing to put in the dishwasher, it's empty. The counters are cleared, why, you may have even wiped them down.
Your husband, sensing your momentary joy, comes walking down the stairs with a pile of bowls, glasses and sliver ware higher than his head. "I found these, too!" he says, happily, "They were buried under computer parts!"
Intended effect:
The dishes were finally clean, the kitchen shiny, and you were filled with so much elation you were considering going fully to paper plates, or at the least, sit down and read a book.
Growl that you're not doing 'upstairs hidden dishes' and make him either a) take them back or b) load the dishwasher himself. (Don't be surprised if he chooses a) Consider going to paper anyway.

All the laundry in the house is done. Even the linens. You didn't even realize you had linens.
Your husband tosses mounds of dirty clothes on the floor by the door. "Look what I found! They were under all the dishes that were under the computer parts!"
Intended Effect:
The laundry was done. That NEVER happens. You were going to have a celebratory drink or three.
Sigh. Admit defeat. Laundry is never done.

Your sons' room is clean.
They are so happy with their clean room they dump all their trains and train tracks and proceed to build the uberest train track ever.
Intended Effect:
They manage to keep it clean for an hour, at least!
Stop cleaning sons' room. When you need to vacuum, sweep toys off to one corner.

Your tween's room is clean.
You wake up. Your tween's room is never clean. You're just dreaming.
Intended Effect:
Your subconscious is trying to get you to clean your tween's room.
Tell your subconscious to harp on something else.

You take a bath.
Your family is pounding on the door with various emergencies ranging from 'I need a band aid for my imaginary owie' to 'where are all the clean bowls because I want ice cream' (check under your computer parts...) to 'can't I have some mommy time?'
Intended Effect:
You take a bath and revel in the peace and quiet of bubbles.
ALWAYS lock the door. Turn on the fan. Put cotton in your ears. Sing loudly.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Countdown to School

Where I live, we are at the 15-day countdown to school... mind you, to school, not the end of summer.15 days left until school. Drama girl will enter sixth grade and the first year of middle school. My sons will enter Pre-Kindergarten.

Now, the one thing about my children, they don’t handle change very well. In this house, the kids live by Routine, and we all suffer if Routine is broken.

So, here’s my list of things I’m doing to prepare the children and myself for… gasp… Not Quite Fall But Back To School…

Wake up for school, now
Gone are the sleeping-in days. Drama Girl is getting up at 6 a.m. to prepare for her 7:20 a.m. start time. It gives her little under an hour to eat, shower and dress before she rides her bike to school.

Second batch of school shopping this week
I mentioned I already bought her some school clothes. This week, we’ll go pick up some more jeans and a couple of tops. Spreading out the school clothes shopping means she doesn’t pick out bad fashion choices she’ll hate in three months in ‘back to school’ mania. It’s also cheaper. Welcome to my world.

Chore chart, this week
In our house, everyone’s schedule is going to change radically. By getting all the kids used to the ‘before school’ and ‘after school’ routine (minus someone’s homework Bwahhahahah) now, it won’t be such a shocker when they go. The boys earn ‘points’ (poker chips) for good behavior and, as of this week, doing certain chores. The points collected at the end of the day turn into stickers. After so many stickers, they get a treat. I know it sounds complicated, but believe me, it’s easier than any other method I’ve seen or tried.

Better breakfasts’, now
I’ve read the
Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood and I recommend that book for all parents. Gone are the pricey cereals that, even if they are the healthiest on the block, only last two days. Enter oatmeal. Every morning, my children get a nice helping of Quaker Oats oatmeal with a bit of milk and maple syrup or brown sugar, or honey, or fruit… you get the idea. I will also add other breakfast to break it up, but I’ve established oatmeal as the staple.

Ban soda
and lets just not talk about my current issues with Diet Coke. To be quite honest, my lust for cold, carbonated chemicals comes and goes.

Math refresher
this is probably not Drama Girl’s favorite, but when I approached her with the idea, she wanted to do it. See, she has a problem with
mulitplication. Mostly, it’s because the schools she went to teach three different ways to do mulitplication and division (don’t get me started) and it just confused her. So during her normal ‘homework’ time, we’ll be doing 30 minutes of multiplication and division facts. If your kid is weak in any area, and you have time (i.e. you don’t work) I think this is a great way to both help strengthen the weakness, and get them ready for well, homework.

Doing dinner – a pure Mom thing –
I have been making
dinner using my favorite cookbook at some point between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and occasionally earlier, using whatever I had, or the phone to call for pizza. But for the after school and bedtime routines to work, I need to have a consistent meal time that’s early enough for everyone to have some down-time. So enter the ‘make dinner’ time. Consistent, every day, and pre-planned. I do really well with this, so it won’t be too hard. I just need to start now. Our meal times are at 6 p.m. every night.

Bedtime no ifs, ands, ors or buts about it –
Now, even in the summer, everyone in this house has a standard bed time. We’re quite obnoxiously boring about it. I don’t even allow the children to deviate much on the weekends. Drama Girl gets maybe an hour extra on the weekends. Healthy Sleep, Healthy Baby pretty much agrees with me on bed times. Turbo and Bear are in bed at 8 p.m. Now that they are in pre-K, I will roll the bedtime back to 7:30 p.m. Drama Girl is in bed at 9:30 p.m. Last year, she was in bed at 9 p.m. and lights out at 9:30 p.m. But last year she could sleep until 7:30. This year, she will be in bed at 8:30 p.m. and lights out at 9 p.m. If you do one thing, I suggest this be it. A routine bed time does wonders for parental sanity. Oh, it’s good for the kids too.

So, what am I missing?

What essential Back-to-School preparations should I be making that I’ve left out?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

No Longer Gunning For Last Place

I belong to a few mommy mailing lists. I can't quite bring myself to meet up with any of them in person, though. There's this competitive streak that runs through a lot of the stay-at-home moms, and it's hard for me to cope with.

For one thing, I can't compete in the Gracious Hostess category. I'm working at home, and not only can I not whip up cheesecake from scratch because of conference calls and deadlines, but I haven't even finished unpacking. From a move in March.

The Endurance division is also a killer. I adore Pick Your Own fruit and vegetable farms, I love nature walks, and trips to the zoo make my heart sing. But the schedules posted by these groups call for spending four hours or more per activity! Working at home makes these outings impossible for me, but even if I was as free as a bird, I wouldn't go. Four HOURS? If you pick fruit for four hours, you're not an agritourist, you're a migrant laborer.

But those are pretty minor issues, really. The real stumbling block is that in the Competitive Motherhood race, I'm still sitting in the starting gate.

Oh, sure, I huddle in the corner of the internet with my friends muttering things like "all babies have their own timetables" and "he'll be able to roll over before school starts." Also, Lah and Rainy, both experienced mothers, assure me that the one list I belong to is filled with lying liars who lie. After all, the women on the list have five month old babies are standing, getting ready to walk. Their two month old babies are rolling over with wild abandon. Their seven month old babies have twenty word vocabularies, and their two week old babies smile and laugh. Their three month olds have multiple teeth that chew a variety of organic foods. (Note to my fellow first timers - whiles some of that is possible, it is all unlikely, especially if reported for a majority of babies in a small group.)

My son (24 weeks old) apparently exists entirely to make the other mothers on this list glad that at least their baby is not in last place. He smiled at six weeks, and laughed at three months. He is fascinated by books, and squeals when several favorites appear, but since we have been reading to him every night for 22 weeks now, it's less literary genius and more habit. He is not yet imitating the sounds we make. He "sits" and "stands" with his hands clutching ours for dear life. He is not interested in solid food, and he has no teeth yet.

But yesterday, he rolled over from back to front. And then a few hours later, he looked at his daddy and distinctly made the sign for milk. When I came running in response to the triumphant paternal bellow, I thought perhaps the daddy was crazy, because the baby wasn't making his little hungry fish face, he wasn't fussing, and he'd just eaten two hours before. But then he made the sign again, and when I offered him milk, he dove on it like a piranha and sighed a peaceful sigh.

The boy's clearly Ivy League material.