From the category archives:



by Milton on Tue, Jun 15th, 2010

in Baby,Baby Gear,Challenges,Design,Home,Month 1,Parenthood

Baby on one knee... iPad on the other.

With the exception of our nursing and napping enabler, the marvelous iPad, we’re both super sensitive to baby gear.  Most of it is junk.  I see it in the store and immediately visualize it in a landfill.  It’s pretty much all badly made molded plastic crap, and much of it requires a batteries.  Gross.  I cringe at the use of even a disposable water bottle or plastic shopping, so you can imagine how all of this other stuff makes me feel.

I tried to get around the baby gear issue by only registering for very few things and buying vintage.  The furniture I bought to house Axelrod’s little onesies and pajamas is midcentury stuff that matches all the blonde wood we have in our space, refinished a little with some fabric that will eventually translate well into his own room (someday, someday!).  Our pram is a fantastic mid-70s vintage.  We co-sleep when he’s not in the pram, and hope to totally avoid ever owning a crib.  The little books and toys we’ve gotten for him are stashed in bins on the blonde wood shelves.

The big, amazing, SUV style BOB stroller is the big item in one of our only big closets.  The ugly Graco infant seat was my one plastic concession in our living room, along with a vibrating chair that is on loan from another family.  We found that we could strap him into the car seat and rock the seat with our foot, creating a swing effect, OR put him in the vibrating chair.  They both work, depending on his mood.  I thought it’d hold out through the infant swing phase nicely.

And then he started to get fussy in ways that only a good rock would suffice.

He’s generally not a fussy guy.  He doesn’t cry unless he has a really good reason.  He cries when he’s hungry.  He fusses when his diaper needs changing.  He cries when he has gas.  The thing is, that whole gas issue?  Yeah.  That happens a LOT.  He’s always working something out, be it a man sized burp or a series of charming farts.  He grunts and pushes and cries.  I can’t blame him.  Digestion issues are the devil.  We use a little Gripe water from time to time, but this stuff certainly doesn’t put him down for a nap, hands free.

The thing about infants is that they get all worked up.  They’re happy and gorgeous and smiling, and then something will happen to tip the scales and you could be looking down a rocky road for the next few hours of family peace.  It’s not that he screams, really.  We are very fortunate to not have a baby with colic.  He just fusses.  He grunts.  He squeaks.  He squirms.  If it goes on for two long, the scales get tipped and his head gets all messy and refuses to sleep.  You’ve got to reset that baby brain with some white noise and swinging to lull him off to sleepy time, thereby lulling yourself off to some precious sleepy time.

For us, the worse time is in the morning.  It starts to happen any time from 4am to 6am and can sometimes (luckily not often) last until 2pm.  He starts to get gassy and he starts with the grunting and the squeaking.  Sometimes, this makes for parental shambles for the whole rest of the day.  A baby who nurses at midnight, 2, and 4 and then decides to be mostly awake until late morning or early afternoon makes for a parent who is trying to survive the day on only 2 hours of sleep.  Exhaustion makes everything worse.  We will start to snip at each other and argue about areas where we generally feel peaceful.  That’s not a pretty way for new parents to go!

Enter… my bratty foot stomping insistence on buying a baby swing.  I was lucky to have the backup of my mother and sister-in-law on the swing front.  They were all visiting- Milton was uncertain of this ugly plastic monstrosity, but it’s rather hard to argue in the face of so many mothers.  Our family needed a swing- it was decided.  We headed to a local baby gear consignment shop and put our fussy baby into some of the ugliest swings I’ve ever seen to test them out.  In the end, Milton and I decided to come away with the cheapest one.  His sister used the same model for her little girl, and it worked for her, that was good enough reason for us!  We bought it and brought it home.  My mother sent me to bed for a much needed nap and commanded absolute silence from my very young sisters and step-father.  She scrubbed the swing while I slept.  It now looks practically new and now doesn’t have that sweetly rancid other-people’s-baby smell that I associate with day care centers and baby consignment shops.  Phew.

Today is the first day we’re getting to test the swing.  His little head flops around a little in it, so I’ve got him supported with an adorable purple elephant that a good friend of ours knit.  I put him in that swing when he was grunting, squeaking, and badly in need of a nap… and he went down for the count.  After 10 minutes, I moved him to his pram for a proper sleep and breathed a sigh of relief.

The swing will go right back to that consignment shop in a few months.  Our living room will look worse for the wear in the meantime, but we three will get some sleep in the meantime.  We’ve learned that a sleepy baby by day means a sleepy baby by night… so I don’t doubt he’ll be lulled to many naps in this thing.

Once he grows a little more and can focus on some different things, I’ll tell you all about the ugly playcenter hand-me-down that was dubbed by it’s previous owner as the “Neglector 1000.”  We’ll use that thing (currently stashed under the couch) and pass that right along to the next baby, too.

In baby world, the fussbucket motto must be, “By Any Means”. Even if those means are plastic.


A few things…

by Esther on Tue, Apr 13th, 2010

in Challenges,Home,Midwives,Pregnancy by week,Week 36

1)  I just don’t know how to make the reflux stop this week!  I couldn’t possibly eat dinner before 9 on nights when I work, and when I go to bed at midnight, all hell breaks loose.  Last night was just terrible!  I kept trying to sleep my way through through the reflux, which would result in hilarious dreams about people trying to buy me a spittoon for my pregnancy, but arguing about what china pattern should be on the spittoon… and here I am yelling, JUST GIVE ME THE SPITOON!  I NEED IT NOW!  I ended up spending time in the bathroom, convinced I was going to toss cookies all over the place, still lucidly dreaming, and in that lucid dream, convinced I was going into labor.

I’ve never had food poisoning, rarely had heartburn, and acid reflux was only a problem when I occasionally went so BOLD on my spicy foods that even the heartiest belly would object.  Granted, I’m lactose intolerant, soy sensitive, and can’t really digest much red meat… but it’s not like I’m shoving these things into my system.  I can’t wait for this little man to drop down a little and give my stomach some room to digest.

2)  In other news, I started taking these herbs last week.  My midwife said, “I’m not going to say they work, I’m not going to say they don’t work.  Some people like them and swear by them.  You can try them if you want.”  I did some research online, found some reviews, and the reviews basically echoed everything the midwife said.  I decided to order them because I am petrified of carrying 2 weeks or more past my due date.

As directed on the package of pills, I upped my dosage of the herbs on Saturday.  I am having LOTS and LOTS of contractions.  I don’t mind them at all!  They usually don’t bother me a whole lot.  In fact, they make me happy.  I feel as if my body is practicing for this labor.  When my belly contracts, I instantly leap into breathing and meditation exercises, which help so much.  Even Milton is getting so used to the contractions that he rolls over in his sleep and starts to practice touch relaxation exercises with me.  If he can do it in his sleep, people, imagine what a magical birth partner he’s going to be when the real deal comes along!

Anyhow, I left the pills at work yesterday and haven’t taken any in about 20 hours.  Thus, the contractions have slowed down quite a bit.  I’m still not sold on these supplements being a great thing or a not so great thing, all told.  I don’t want to have this baby early (no Aries men in my house, please- no offense meant to Aries men), don’t want to have this baby late, just want to have this baby on or around his due date.  It’s just that my mother carried so so late with both of her children… and my torso is so roomy… I can totally imagine kiddo hanging out, taking his sweet time, and going so far overdue that it’s too late for my highly anticipated home birth.  What to do?

3)  We hired a lovely cleaning woman!!!!!!!!!  This is an idea I have been flirting with ever since I started working a whole lot after moving to Seattle, but I kept putting it off and putting it off because, frankly, I didn’t want to spend money on something I figured I could do myself.  The fact is, yucky floors make me feel so sensitive, and I’m always convinced that no one sees the grime in the bathroom as well as I do.  Here I was, all sensitive, starting to resent the grime.  The more pregnant I got, the more I couldn’t reach grime without grunting, resenting, and working myself all up into a blood pressured tizzy.  Who has energy enough for grunting, resenting and pregnancy?  Gross.  Finally, we called a cleaning woman and she did SUCH an amazing job that I nearly cried when I came home from work yesterday.  So so worth it!  I imagine that this will be such an amazing help when the baby comes.  We don’t have any family here to help us out in Seattle, and will both be so busy figuring out how to take care of our new family member.  Thank goodness we can afford the ease of this wonderful woman coming over to take the pressure of cleaning off our backs!  It is definitely a luxury that I am now happy to pay for.

Here is a photo of myself earlier this week that is somewhat unpleasant for me to post, but par for the course, I suppose:


{ 1 comment }

Striped and Showered

For weeks now, clients, strangers, and friends have nodded at my belly and asked, “Are you ready?”  My response has always be a quick and dismissive, “Heck no.”

We haven’t been ready anywhere but in our “YAY, BABY!” minds.  As far as the random sundries required for baby care, this place has been a shambles of list making, organization struggles, and baffled wondering.  I work during each of my three days off a week to try and make this house a little bit more ready for hunkering down and figuring out how to care for a newborn.  Sometimes, I freak out.  ”We have to figure out how to care for a newborn!  Then a baby!  Then a toddler!  Holy cow!  What school district is our building in?  What are we going to do with a teenager?!”  My husband is somehow genetically programmed to not freak out.  He mostly laughs at me, which sometimes makes me freak out more.  Eventually, we work together for an hour or two and I back off until the next day, when the cycle starts all over again.

Truth is this: after 34 weeks of labor prep, I feel almost totally ready to take on the struggle of bringing a newborn into this world.  It’s what to do after he gets here that I check and double check our list and wonder what I’m forgetting.  Luckily, a huge and beautiful turning point in my uncertainty came over the weekend when a bunch of our wonderful friends got together to throw us a spectacular shower on Sunday afternoon!  It really helped to make us feel strong with community and WAY more prepared for this baby.  We now have almost everything we need to help our house feel more prepared.  Even Sopor, our precious little pooka, feels more comfortable.  In fact, she’s dozing on the new changing table pad as I type (not so sure of how I’m going to dictate to her that not every cozy space is a cat’s space.  History says: probably not possible!).

I just bought a bunch of storage baskets for the cabinets I bought for family’s living room/baby center cabinets.  Into these will go all the wonderful clothes, blankets (home made, even!), fluffy rattles, nipple creams (yikes), baby carriers, and onesies decorated at our shower’s onesie decorating station!  I am so excited to finally get all this random stuff organized so that I can take a photo of it to show everyone just how we’re going to fit this lil’ family of three into a studio loft.

While I wash, fold, and organize all of these teeny tiny bits of baby love this afternoon, I’m baking my deliciously “healthy” banana/coconut/chocolate chip protein bread for our 5th home birthing class tonight.  I leave you with a photo of a bear that will have to wait to be named until our son can speak to name him himself!  This panda guy was made by our friend April, and is already a prized family possession.  Here he is with April at our shower, being snuggled for a last time by the great lady who put all of his bits and pieces together:

Best bear, ever!

UPDATE:  Our site was down for a while while my husband and our server admins fixed some nasty hacker problems.  In the meantime after writing the above entry, I started to organize, and of course created a big mess.  I keep telling myself that mess comes before order, but really really wish that cycle would break down and sit in order for just a little while, here and there.  Y’know?


Organizing for the unknown

by Milton on Fri, Feb 26th, 2010

in Home,Psychological,Week 29

One of the differences between the way Esther and I think, when preparing for our son, is our various strategies for the ominous task of “feeling prepared for parenthood” and all that goes along with that foggy idea.  I feel prepared by making lists.  Esther feels prepared by preparing (admittedly, a more direct strategy).  But in a way, they’re both valid strategies against this amorphous goal.  Esther’s has the advantage of actually getting things done, mine has the advantage of knowing exactly what needs to get done.  My list making, so far, has only shown me that I don’t need to do anything yet.  Well, read a lot of books.  Check.  Enjoy the ride.  Check.

Selling the house was also a big thing on the list of things we absolutely needed to do in order to feel prepared.  Until, as of this week, our house still wasn’t sold and so we took it off the market.  One would think that we would therefore feel like we failed at preparing.  But the strange thing is that we both feel more prepared now that the house is off the market.  Selling a house, buying a house, moving everything, getting used to a new setting, etc, all feels counter-productive at this point.  I feel like we’re out of limbo and can make the best of what we have.  Deciding to make the best of what we have is a huge step in the direction of “feeling prepared”.

And, now that that item has been decided, if not completed, it sets in motion a lot of other things on my list of things that I need to do.  Starting with re-organizing our little loft.  Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be moving few pieces of furniture into storage, a bunch of art that we took down (in the house-selling attempt) but probably aren’t going to put back up just yet, and begin to move things around until things feel “ready”. I have some big ideas of making the room more ready for watching movies on the projector, playing music on the keyboard, and changing diapers.

Why all the quotes around “ready” and “feel prepared”?  I’m not sure.  I guess in a weird way I’m realizing that this is not about reaching some final end state for our house, because we had already thought the house wouldn’t work at all.  It’s about getting our minds ready, creating the solid feeling in our guts that the house will work, that everything is ready.  And of course it will, and is.  There’s not a huge list of requirements for taking care of a baby.  A boob, a blanket, and attentive caretakers are probably sufficient for 99% of the baby’s needs, especially during the first months.  But our brains… they need some serious work before we’re ready to take care of our baby.

And slowly, we’re adapting, and our house is adapting with us, and by the time he gets here everything and everyone will be ready.  And it will be difficult to determine what exactly it was that finally made it ready, other than a certain amount of worrying, questioning, doubt, stress, debate, brain storming, furniture shuffling, color-picking, and out of it all comes readiness.  Through a little whirlwind of fretting and confusion and worry we earn the right to feel ready.


Housing Challenges

by Esther on Sun, Feb 7th, 2010

in Challenges,Home,Money,Pregnancy by week,Week 27

I read in a book yesterday that putting together a nursery is an important part of early bonding with your baby.  According to this book, objects and art around the baby will be a part of the baby’s first stimulation.  What we choose to expose our child to will become the building blocks of who our child is to become.  This will be the first way for us to give some culture to our child.  It will be the first teaching of our family’s aesthetic style.

Well then.  If this is the case, I venture to guess that our child will have a strong foundation in urban minimalism.  Our house has been on the market (with a small break around the the winter holidays) for the better part of 4 months.  We will give it another 3 weeks before pulling if off of the market in favor of getting ready for some baby arrival.

I love our little condo!  It was first Milton’s perfect bachelor pad.  Then we redecorated and made it our perfect love nest.  It has a great view of the city, a private roof deck, and is just blocks away from anything you could possibly want in Seattle.  It is my most very favorite place that I have ever lived in.  As a wife and cook, I work this small place like it is a machine and actually love that everything is so close together.  I don’t even think I would ever want a big huge house.  It just seems like too much work, and I feel like my husband and I would be too far away from one another if we had more than a few good rooms.

The thing is, our place is a loft.  It doesn’t have any separate rooms unless you count the bathroom.  It’s just one big happy box.  I don’t think that most couples could get along in a living situation like this one, but Milton and I are very very happy.  We know when to be quiet and we know when to have a discussion from the lofted bedroom to the living room below.  I don’t think we’ve ever had a difficult moment between us that is spatially related.  Adding a baby, however, could potentially cause a problem.  The slippery stairs don’t have a railing.  There aren’t any doors to close to block Junior from devastation.  There are nerdy wires falling from several computered surfaces.  It’s kind of an adults only sort of place.

Or so we’ve thought.  If this place doesn’t sell, we’re going to begin an endeavor in March that will redecorate this place once more to make room for this baby.  Some shelves.  An old-fashioned pram for use as a bassinet.  A few less computers.  An open space for lounging about on the floor.  A new easy to clean rug underfoot.  The key has got to come from a few creative solutions for urban baby nesting.  We can handle that as long as we can scrape together a few bucks.

The more I think about it, the more I think we’ll be just fine with our urban minimalist baby.  We don’t ever plan on living outside of a city (‘burbs scare me, I gotta be honest), so our son can just get used to slippery stairs, the sounds of cars outside, cavorting on the streets, and our voices shouting from the loft to the living room.


Baby sans automobile

by Milton on Wed, Nov 25th, 2009

in Home,Week 17

Just in case we end up not being able to sell our house before baby arrives, we’re going to have to come up with a strategy for taking care of a baby without the convenience of a car. Our current house doesn’t have a garage, and none are for sale, and parking spaces are hundreds of bucks per month.

Of course, all difficulties merely turn into challenges, and I’m especially interested in challenges that require minimalism and creativity to overcome.  But, I haven’t really thought about it enough to know if it’s even possible.

I like Dear Baby’s take on the car-less life with baby.  Their solution, which has yet to be tested, is:

  • Quinny Zap stroller – 13lbs, can hold a stroller seat or a car seat, folds up real small, has storage, etc.
  • Maxi Cosi car seat – for the first few months when the baby’s too small for a stroller, and also for car travel.
  • Zipcar – for doctors appointments, emergencies, day trips, etc.
  • Taxis + stroller + car seat for quick trips or visits.
  • Moby Wrap or BabyBjorn when we using public transportation, or walks.

I think it can all work. The main wild card is the fear factor of “what if something crazy happens and you need to get to the hospital and every second counts”… a car would clearly be the most convenient option, or an ambulance actually, so we’ll need to come to terms with that fear and see if it’s worth the cost of a car plus $150/month in parking plus insurance and all that.

I’m looking for examples of people who have a newborn and survive without a car. Any tips or tricks or advice would be really helpful! Thanks.


The chain reaction of pregnancy

by Milton on Thu, Oct 1st, 2009

in Home,Week 09

The having a baby situation has set into motion a quick little transformation of our lives and our thinking about life in general.  As soon as we started seriously considering the hope that Esther’s pregnancy will result in a new member of our family, we realized that our current studio loft isn’t quite big enough to house all 3 of us.  There’s not a single wall between rooms unless you count the bathroom as a room.

So, we considered a few options.  Renting our loft and renting another bigger place somewhere.  Selling our loft and renting a bigger place somewhere.  Selling our loft and buying a bigger place somewhere.  Etc.  Right now, it would be difficult to get enough rent for our space to cover the mortgage, so that option was out.  Not to mention that being landlords seemed to be one responsibility too many in the next couple years.  Due to the bad seller’s market right now, it also didn’t make sense to sell low and then buy later on when, most likely, the market has rebounded.  So, the only option that made sense was to both sell and buy a new place at the same time.  The only problem being that we’re now doing three high-stress activities at once (according to the Holmes Rahe stress scale, pregnancy is 40 points, a new major mortgage is 32 points, and changing residences is 20 points = 92 points).

Now, as previously noted, shortly before Esther got pregnant, I left my nicely-paying job to strike out on my own.  As soon as I started talking with brokers about potential pre-approval on a new loan, I realized that self-employed people aren’t able to get loans anymore unless they’ve got 2+ years of tax returns showing that their self-employment is up to par.

Damn.  And it almost ruined all of our plans.

But then I simply asked the primary client of the product we’re working on to change me from a contract employee to a full-time employee and they, kindly, agreed.  One of them had recently had a similar situation cause problems for them when buying a house, and so he understood what I was going through.  So, now, on paper, I have a full-time job, even though in reality it’s not like that at all.  All to get a house, to make a safe place for the new potential baby.

The chain of logic from baby to house to job is making it all seem like we live quite regular domestic lives, in fact.  Luckily, there’s enough wiggle room in this scenario to still do things in our own quirky way.  The fact that we’re trying to sell a house right when the market is at its bottom, for example.

After a couple weeks of intensive searching, we lucked out and found a place that we really like, in a neighborhood that we think has a lot of promise, and which isn’t too far from downtown.  It’ll be a great change.  The offer we made is contingent on the sale of our current house, so now the chain is linking back on itself.  It’s more of a web, really.  Everything is becoming dependent on everything else.  As long as all prongs of our plan step forward at the same time, there should be no problem, right?

No Prob Limo.

No Prob Limo