Saturday, October 31, 2009

The division of labor

All fellow bloggers, I need some perspective here. Talk to me about the division of labor at your house- you work at home, your spouse works somewhere else. What does he handle as far as child care, cooking, laundry, housework? How do you manage to get time for yourself while still making sure that all the other needs of the house are attended to? Who gets up in the night if the kiddos wake up? Who puts them to bed?

Bonus round: how did you determine who would do what? Did it just flow naturally, involve some discussion? Compromise?

Link back to your own blog posts dealing with these issues or leave me some tips and tricks in the comments. Thanks!

Edited to add some posts related to the above topic...

Equally Shared Parenting An entire website, complete with blog and soon to be released book, devoted to the idea of 50/50 parenting.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Defense of Cry It Out/ the Ferber Method

If you told me before I actually had a child that I would be writing a blog post defending the practice of crying it out, I would have laughed. I had no intention of sitting outside my child's bedroom door listening to him wail a la Mad About You. I read books while I was pregnant about mothers being genetically predispositioned to respond to their infant's cries. I read The Happiest Baby on the Block, which points out that babies in the womb are held and fed 24-7, so it is impossible to “spoil” a newborn by holding them too much, or feeding them too often. This all worked well for us- I was the mom who kept having to check the baby because it seemed that he just never did anything but sleep. The pediatrician had to tell me to quit waking him up to feed him. He slept through the night without us really having to do anything, which was a huge blessing since I was working at that time. We had to get up at 6 am for work. If the baby woke up at 5, I could walk into his room, tell him it wasn't time to wake up yet, and he would go back to sleep. (Keep reading- don't hate me just yet...)

Then we hit six months or so. Teeth started coming in, the baby could sit up on his own and I wasn't working anymore. The grandparents were visiting and the baby woke up at 4 am. I jumped out of bed and ran into his room, wanting to make sure that he didn't wake the visiting grandparents. I figured his teeth must be bothering him, or he must be hungry, so I nursed him, and he went back to sleep. Perfect- no problem, no crying it out. This became our routine for a while... and then several weeks... and then I couldn't remember the last time he slept through the night. He would wake up about 4 and I would nurse him, but then he stopped going back to sleep. He'd look at me after nursing for close to an hour and be ready to play, to start his day. He wasn't napping well during this time either, so we were both bleary eyed and quite cranky. I am not proud of my parenting skills during that time. I was getting very little sleep, barely functioning. I was constantly fighting with my husband and on edge all the time. I literally could not function with the amount of sleep we were getting, and I can't imagine it was much fun for the baby either.

Enter Dr. Ferber, the supposed sleep expert. I went to the library and checked out the latest edition of his book. I am by no means an expert on the subject, but the major points that I remember from the book made a lot more sense that I thought they would. Teaching children good sleep habits, including being able to fall asleep on their own if they wake during the night, is an invaluable skill. Children should be able to fall asleep on their own and stay asleep all night long. The Ferber Method (or what I remember of the method from a read a few months back) advocates training your child to fall asleep on their own gradually, yes, by allowing them to cry it out (CIO). It's actually a lot more humane than I thought before actually reading the book. The idea is to let the child know that you as the parent are there, but that they need to fall asleep without your intervention. On the first night of Ferberization, you allow the child to cry it out for a short amount of time (as little as a few minutes, I think- going off memory here) and then go back into the room and comfort them. The amounts of time that you allow the child to cry it out gradually increases until he or she falls asleep. The child is never left to cry without parental contact for more than 30 minutes.

So we embarked on our Dr. Ferber journey. The next night when baby T. woke up, I went into his bedroom, made sure that he was not wet, hurt, or otherwise in need of something, then explained that it was still nighttime and he needed to go back to sleep. Then I would set the kitchen timer, glue myself to a chair right outside his bedroom door, and read Dr. Ferber. I would go in after the recommended time, remind the baby that he was okay and that it was time to sleep. And then I would curse Dr. Ferber. What the hell did he know anyway?? There were nights that I HATED the man, his book, life in general. It was torture to sit there and listen to baby T cry. All I wanted to do was go in there, pick him up and do whatever I possible could to make him stop. But I'd tried that- I'd tried letting him get up in the middle of the night, nursing him, rocking him, walking him, begging him, and it got us nowhere. So he cried. It was miserable.

The longest baby T ever cried was two hours. He woke up at 3 am and I went in to him and told him that he needed to go back to sleep- it was still night time. I was in his room again at 3:30, again at 4 and again at 4:30. According to Dr. Ferber, 5 am is morning, so at 5, baby T got to come out. It was a huge relief. I think, but don't quote me, I nursed him and he went back to sleep. It had been a L O N G night for us both. The next night, it only took three times of me going in there to remind him it was night time and he fell back to sleep on his own. More progress was made the following night when I didn't have to go in more than once. We finally slept through the night again.

I'm not going to claim that thing have been perfect since then. Baby T still doesn't have a great nap schedule. To be honest, he's been waking up again in the middle of the night. When we were on vacation, there were nights that he was up every two hours. There are nights though, that he does sleep through, and on the nights that he wakes up, I can explain to him that it's time to sleep and he generally settles himself back down. I am a very proud mamma when I hear him cry out in the middle of the night, then hear him turn on his musical glowworm and settle himself back to sleep without needing me at all. We are both getting more sleep and the difference in baby T is amazing. He laughs more, has fewer meltdowns and is actually less clumsy then when he wasn't sleeping.

So where is this post coming from? Well, it's actually in response to a post written by Hobo Mama, in which she argues against CIO. I like Hobo Mama, I agree with a lot of her posts, and I don't think she's necessarily wrong about this. I just know that for us, not using CIO was not working. After reading her post this morning, I felt like a bad mom. When I put my child down for his nap and he cried, and I let him, I felt like a bad mom. The alternate title of this post could be, “Why and How I am not a bad mother even though I let my kid cry it out.” I hope that maybe, for someone else, the post will serve as the “What and How you are not a bad mother either even if you let your kid cry it out” post. My purpose in writing is NOT to attack Hobo Mama, Attachment Parenting or those who choose not to use the CIO method, it's simply to say, that didn't work for us, and this did. Also, me feeling like a bad mother is not the fault of Hobo Mama- I get to a place of self doubt without a ride from anyone else, thanks.

Hobo Mama's main point, in bold, is, “Believe your baby has something of value to say to you.” I'm right there with her on that one- I don't think that baby T cries just for kicks and giggles. I believe that when he cries, it's because he has something to express and that's his only way to do it. That being said, I'm not convinced that when he cries when I put him down to sleep, it means that he needs me to be right there in the room with him. I think it's just as possible that he's saying, “I'm tired (or overtired) and I'm mad that I need to sleep. I want to play. I don't want to stop and take a nap.” I feel this way as an adult. I know how much sleep I need in order to be healthy, to be a good mom and good wife. And yet, I constantly rationalize staying up just a few more minutes to finish a blog post, or read one more chapter, or finish some household task that I'm convinced needs to be done at 11 pm. I would LOVE to be one of those people who survives on four hours of sleep every night. I know that's not me, and honestly, sometimes that makes me mad. I don't want to go to bed. Isn't it possible that my son feels the same way? Couldn't this be what he's communicating with his cries? And isn't it my job as his mother, his GOOD mother, to make sure that he sleeps, that he gets what he needs?

So if we've established that my child needs sleep, then why not get him sleep without the crying? I've tried! I promise I've tried! I've tried rocking, nursing, driving, walking, begging, bribing and praying the child to sleep. I've tried sitting in his room with him. I've tried rubbing his back in the crib. I've tried music. We have a solid bedtime routing with stories and cuddles. We use the lavender bath soap. We tried co-sleeping and it wasn't for us- for any of us, baby included. If he falls asleep nursing and I try to put him into the crib, he wakes up MAD. Same deal with the car. He won't sit still anymore for me to rock him. The begging and bribing seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The best and fastest way to get him to sleep is to leave him in his crib to get mad about having to sleep in the first place. After he makes his feelings known on the subject, he generally settles himself down for a nap. Sleeping at night has fortunately come a lot easier for us and these days he goes down at night without much fuss, thankfully.

To conclude this VERY LONG blog post, I just want to say that this is what worked for us- maybe it will work for you too, maybe not. This is what allowed me to provide sleep for my child when nothing else I did seemed to be working. My “baby” is now thirteen months old and was about eight months old when I started letting him cry it out. My feeling about letting a newborn cry it out are very different. In no way would I advocate leaving a hungry baby or wet baby to cry it out. I knew/ know that my child's basic needs were met before concluding that what he truly needed was sleep.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Lost Update Tidbits...

Okay, so a few more updates that I forgot with the original update post.

I won a $25 Starbucks gift card with the Huggies Enjoy the Ride Rewards Program! WOO HOO! My in-laws were nice enough to buy diapers and wipes for us to use while we were there, which meant that we didn't have to worry about fitting them in the suitcase. I entered one of the codes that was on the package of wipes, then decided to play just one instant win game. And then I instantly won! WOO HOO! If you need codes for points, check out Cha-Ching on a Shoestring for a great head start. (I will attempt to reign in my excessive use of exclamation points in future posts, but no promises! Especially where FREE!!!!! coffee is concerned!!!!!!)

Speaking of diapers, did you order your diaper sample from WalMart yet? Go here and you can request a sample of size 4 or 5 Pampers Extra Protection. It looks like they are marketing these as nighttime diapers. (via CFO and Cha-Ching on a Shoestring) Don't forget this tip from Parent Hacks about beefing up daytime diapers, if you run into a problem. I also just learned that you can dab some vaporub on a panty liner and stick it in your kid's crib in order to ease night time congestion. Actual complete directions here. Gotta love the blogosphere!

I made an ABC Wrap (Asian Style Baby Carrier) or Mei Tai baby carrier to take on our trip with us. HIGHLY recommend it! I have NO idea why I didn't have one of these when my child was smaller, actually LIKED to be carried and didn't weigh as much as a baby elephant. You can find the directions to make your own at It's seriously easy- buy a piece of fleece at the fabric store, bring it home, make a few cuts and instant baby carrier! The cost is great too- about $10 AND I had enough fabric left over to make a sleeve for my laptop. I found the directions as well as a helpful diagram at Hobo Mama. If you have more money than crafty skills, you can buy your own wrap at Kozy Carrier. I would actually LOVE to buy one of these- they come in great colors and styles. Maybe for the next baby. They also have great (and FREE) demonstrations of how to use this type of baby carrier. I would love to try carrying our baby on our back, but we haven't gotten there yet. The carrier was great for the airport, when I couldn't have baby T in the stroller. It was also used at the train station when I could not put him down for fear of him running off the platform. I also had weird morbid thoughts of the plane crashing and being able to carry my baby hands free while evacuating the plane. Gotta love the way my crazy mind works.

Speaking of the plane, I was a little annoyed when flight attendants came by after the little safety demonstration and mentioned specifically to me, with the baby, that I needed to place my own oxygen mask over my face before attempting to assist him with his. Really, I mean, who doesn't know that at this point??? Then I realized that if something were to happen, there is no way in hell that I'd worry about my own stinking mask if my baby couldn't breath. I know that makes no sense, I know that if I pass out in the process of getting his mask on, we're both in trouble, but every day, EVERY DAY, his mask gets put on before I worry about mine. I make something for him to eat and feed him. I eat whatever he doesn't and maybe something else that I throw together before he moves onto the next thing. I get him dressed and then take two minutes to throw some horrible sweat pant/ tee shirt combination on before he starts pulling down all the clothes in the bedroom closet. It might be time to listen to the flight attendant...

That's all I've got. I hope to see you all back here soon- no more going a month without posting!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Product and Recipe Review-Slow Cooker Orange Chicken Recipe

I've made this Orange Chicken from the Year of Slow Cooking site twice now. Basically, you dredge small pieces of chicken in flour, then brown the chicken in a skillet. The browned chicken gets cooked in an orange sauce in the slow cooker (apparently that's what all the cool kids are calling CrockPots these days!). Here's my experience with the recipe, as well as a review of my new(ish) slow cooker.

The first time, it was not great. I made some changes to the recipe- I was afraid of making it too salty, so I really held back on the amount of salt that I added. I also went light on the brown sugar, convincing myself when I tasted it, that the sauce was sweet enough without the entire three tablespoons called for in the recipe. When it came time to cook the chicken, though- I did it exactly as directed- low for six hours in a four quart cooker. The finished product needed more salt and was not quite sweet enough. I tried to help the situation by adding salt and white sugar to the chicken while in the slow cooker and it did improve the taste somewhat. The worst part of the whole thing, though, was that my chicken was dry inside. I frequently have this problem when I cook chicken in the slow cooker. I do not understand how chicken cooked while submerged in liquid can somehow come out dry, but I manage to do it way too often. I ate the chicken- it was okay, but not great... hubs was not hungry for dinner that night and the leftovers got left in the fridge when we left for almost two weeks. Oops...

The recipe calls for half a can of orange juice concentrate. This meant that I still had half a can of OJ concentrate in my freezer. That, coupled with the desire to make good on this recipe, made me try again. This time, though, I used more salt and the full amount of sugar in the sauce. I tried to keep my chicken chunks larger to help with the dryness. I used a two quart cooker and cooked the chicken for about three hours on LOW. Since the chicken is browned before it goes into the slow cooker, it cooked through with no problem. The resulting dish was much improved! Hubs liked it almost as much as the pre-made stuff in the freezer section of Costco- he just said that it was not as sweet. I might have to bump that brown sugar even more! I just polished off the leftovers for dinner tonight and I must say that it was yummy, even reheated. It has the comfort food feel of take out Chinese food and will be making an appearance on our menu on a regular basis.

By the way, Stephanie O'Dea, the author of A Year of SlowCooking blog, has also written a book- Make it Fast, Cook it Slow. It's getting fantastic reviews around the blogosphere and based on Stephanie's writing on her blog, I would imagine that it's fantastic.

I've been cooking in a new slow cooker these days- I got one for my birthday. I was lucky enough to pick out whichever model I wanted, and the one that I chose was this one:
Hamilton Beach 33134 3-in-1 Slow Cooker with 2-, 4-, and 6-Quart Crocks

The big selling point was that this slow cooker comes with three removable crocks- a two quart, a four quart and a six quart. I previously used CrockPot brand slow cooker that was five quarts or so. It was a great slow cooker, but there were times that I needed MORE space and it was a PAIN to clean. I actually received it for my birthday exactly 10 years ago. It still works perfectly, but it was time for an upgrade. Enter the new Hamilton Beach slow cooker. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I opened the box. The inserts are round. From the picture, I thought they were oval and I had visions of cooking a turkey in the slow cooker laid out breast up just like you would in a roasting pan. That's not going to happen in this slow cooker- chicken cooked on a beer can, sure- the six quart insert is plenty tall. I decided to give it a chance. I was pleased that the three inserts stacked neatly inside of each other, with the one lid that fits all three neatly on top, so this new slow cooker fit in the same space as my old CrockPot. The inserts are super easy to clean- so much nicer than trying to clean the inside of the cooker without submerging the heating element. I've used all three sizes inserts in the few months that I've had it and I must admit that the two quart is my favorite for right now. It seems to be the perfect size when I need to reheat a frozen roast or cook something for just the two of us. I'm glad, though, that I have the option of the larger inserts for a large butt roast or a big batch of stew. I'm also glad that I won't have to invest in another slow cooker when our family gets larger and I'm cooking larger volumes of food. If this one lasts for another ten plus years, I have a feeling that we're going to need the four and six quart inserts!

They also make a snazzy snazzy stainless steel version of this slow cooker. I thought about and debated getting this one, but I just couldn't justify spending an additional $30 or so for an appliance that was going to spend most of its time behind closed doors. Nothing else in our kitchen is stainless either, so it wasn't like it needed to match or something.

(Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, so if you purchase any of the products listed above, I will receive a very small portion of that sale. I think. Maybe. Want to try it and help me find out?? Come on??? Please??? ;-))

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Mother of All Update Posts

This poor little lonely blog hasn't been updated once this month! It makes me sad that I haven't had more time to write and that I don't have more to say. Believe it or not, I have several half written posts saved as drafts here, but I just don't feel like they're complete enough on their own. I'll try to expand some of them and cover others here in one big update post.

Our son took his very first airplane ride! He did great and I hope to have a post here soon with our travel experiences. We had a great time with my husband's family! It was great to be around extended family and gave me a taste of what life would be like if we lived closer to extended family. I would seriously consider moving if we were not so rooted here.

I went on another job interview. I've really come to hate interviewing. In an interview, you are basically opening yourself up to judgement, something I don't deal with very well. I have tried to live my life without regretting any of the decisions I've made- instead choosing to believe that all those choices that I've made- good or bad- are what got me to where I am, and that's a pretty good place. Still, it's hard to keep justifying the philosophy degree I thought was so fantastic at the time, as well as the various career choices I've made along that way. I would LOVE to go back and get that pharmacy degree that my mom was pushing!

In other interviewing news, I am convinced that just like guys don't like girls who are too into them, interviewers prefer candidates who don't show they want the position too much. I was not 100% sure that the position I interviewed for was something that I wanted, but I wanted to at least talk to them about the opportunity. I was very honest in the interview and told the interviewer that I wasn't sure about the position or the fact that it was 100% commission. At that point, she seemed to push for me to continue the interview process, even though I was very much leaning towards this NOT being the position for me. On the other hand, during the last interview that I went on, I was very eager about the position and felt very strongly that it was a great fit and I didn't get the job. Didn't even get the third interview. Act as if you don't need or want the job, and you just might get it!

The basil died during my time away. It is my position that I cannot be held responsible for its passing as I was not here during the time of its demise. I have purchased new seeds from the dollar bin at Target and will hopefully be cultivating new basil in the next few days.

The tomato and green pepper I subsequently planted, also seem to be on the way out. They were doing well before I left on my trip- green and healthy with a tomato already growing on the tomato plant. They survived while I was gone, but I noticed that something seemed to be eating the leaves of the plant. I sprayed both the tomato and the green pepper plants with a dish soap solution- read it on the internet. Now most of the leaves on the tomato plant are dead and falling off. The green pepper kind of closed in on itself and then the leaves fell off. I'm not sure if I somehow killed it with the dish soap or if the recent cold snap we had here did the plants in. I'm still holding out hope that they will somehow come back, but it's not looking good. :-( I still want to be a mom who grows things, so I'm going to do a little more research on gardening in Florida and see if I can't get something together for the next planting season.

I am loving the posts that Trent is doing over at the Simple Dollar on the Ethical Frugality. This is something that I've struggled with- how far is too far to get something for free or discounted? Is it wrong to use each of our computers to print a high dollar coupon- getting a total of four for our house instead of two? Is it wrong to use my mom's address in addition to my own for mail in rebates? He hasn't addressed any of these questions directly, but his insight on the other topics has been interesting to say the least. I'm still hoping that he'll address couponing at some point. In the meantime, Chief Family Officer weighs in on the topic here and here.

Okay... I think that covers most of the excitement for the past month or so... my intent is to get this up and write another post to be scheduled for tomorrow... you know what they say about intentions though! We'll see how it goes.