Friday, March 30, 2012

The kids made me do it.

Earlier this week, you may have come across various news outlets (and I use the term loosely) reporting on Alicia Silverstone's feeding habits.  Not how she feeds herself, we don't care about that, but how she feeds her baby. 

If you are a mother (or father), you are likely already aware that the second you become a parent, your parenting habits will become a popular conversation.  With your friends.  Your co-workers.  Your parents.  Your in-laws.  The lady who bags your groceries.  Your mailman... you get the idea.  When you're a celebrity like Alicia Silverstone, this 'perk' of parenthood is amplified to the nth degree. 

Silverstone posted a home video a couple of days ago that shows her feeding her 10-month old son mama bird style -- she puts some food in her mouth, chews it a little to make it more malleable, then she passes it from her mouth into her son's.  Hardly an earth-shattering concept: the kid can't chew the food she's feeding  him, so she's pre-chewing it for him; no biggie.   Of course, it didn't take long for the Internet to stop what it was doing and deliver various opinions on Silverstone approach to feeding her son.  Regardless of the source of the 'reporting', the general census among authors and commentors alike was 'Ew. Gross.'

While I never took this approach to feeding our children, I can certainly appreciate the convenience of what she is doing. No extra plates or dishes.  No second meal to make.  And as a staunch vegan, I would hazard that what Silverstone was passing to her baby with her mouth was far healthier than anything you could ever spoon-feed your baby out of a jar.  But whatever, quite frankly, it's none of my business.  I do, however, find it interesting that people would seize on something so seemingly benign as feeding a baby as an opportunity to let us know how gross they think it is.  

I mean really, of all the things a parent can do that might be considered gross, that's what they're going to tweet, blog, and vlog about?  When I think about the various gross habits I have picked up as a parent over the years, I'm quite relieved I don't live under the same microscope as Silverstone:

  • you know those first 4-6 weeks when your newborn is still pooping at night?  When I wasn't sure if the baby had pooped, rather than take off her diaper for nothing, I would gently stick my finger inside her diaper.  Poopy finger?  Change!  No poopy finger? No change!  Obviously, I washed my hands after.  Really well.  
  • you know how sometimes your kid has a runny nose, and you don't have a kleenex?  Thank God for sleeves!  And dress hems!
  • you know how kids lick the icing off a cupcake, then toss it away?  We all know that cupcake is still perfectly edible.  Don't judge.
I have to assume that most of the people passing judgement on Silverstone's feeding habits are people that aren't exposed to small children on a regular basis.  If you're around small children for any length of time, you'll quickly realize that sometimes you just do what you've got to do.  I like to joke that the more kids you have, the lower your standards are (my standards of 'gross' now are certainly different than they were ten years ago!).

Clearly, Silverstone holds her baby's best interests at heart, and in the grand scheme of things, who really cares anyway?  I appreciate Silverstone's enthusiasm as a first-time parent, she clearly wants to do the best for her son.   I can't even claim that the gross things I've done were in my kids' best interests, most of my gross habits were born of our laziness.  And a love of cupcakes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's not you, it's your HE washing machine...

We field a lot of questions about stink around these parts.  Usually, people assume cloth diaper stink is related to their washing routine, however, if your cloth diapers have developed a persistent mildew-y smell (not ammonia!), your fancy-dancy high efficiency washing machine may actually be the culprit.  

High efficiency washing machines are prone to stink for a number of reasons:

  • front-loading machines always retain some wetness 
  • front-loading machines are tightly sealed
  • front-loading machines do not use much water, as a result, detergent residue may buildup within the machine
The stink that develops in your machine can transfer to the items washed in your washing machine, including your cloth diapers.  This problem is widespread enough that a class-action lawsuit has been put forth in the (good ol' litigious) USA.  

Often times, people who are dealing with persistent funk will regularly strip their cloth diapers to keep the smell at bay, however, a plausible reason why this approach works is that they are actually stripping their washing machine.  The ingredients found in RLR, a laundry treatment that removes buildup from fabric, are quite similar to those found in Affresh, a product used to remove odor causing bacteria and buildup from HE washing machines -- you might think you're stripping your cloth diapers, but you're actually stripping your washing machine!

If you have funky-smelling diapers, and you suspect your washing machine may be to blame, there are several steps you can take to remedy the situation:
  • use a detergent recommended for use with an HE machine.
  • use the recommended amount of detergent.
  • always leave your washing machine's door ajar between uses.  
  • don't let wet clothes sit in your washing machine for an extended period.
  • regularly clean the gasket surrounding the machine's door opening.  This gasket tends to hold water, and it acts as a catch-all for hair, lint, and other small items that may get trapped (hair, socks, washcloths, etc.).
  • regularly clean your washing machine's filter -- I had the pleasure of cleaning our machine's filter this afternoon, I was surprised about the amount of debris and guck that had accumulated, never mind the skunky water that had been sitting at the bottom of the machine.
  • clean your washing machine as indicated by the manufacturer on a monthly basis-- read your instruction manual!
A stinky washing machine can not only affect your cloth diapers, it may transfer stink to other clothing items, and your laundry room may develop an odor.  Rather than regularly stripping your cloth diapers, which can be a time-consuming process, and which may cause undue wear & tear on your diapers, giving some TLC to your HE washing machine may be a more effective approach.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bigger kids = bigger problems

As it turns out, once you beat those sleepless nights, terrible twos, and fucking threes, you'll realize that the hardships of raising babies and toddlers are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things.  Our oldest daughter entered grade six this past fall, and in our particular school zone, that meant a transition from elementary school to middle school (dun, dun, dun!). I was dreading this change to the point that we spent last summer looking at houses in another school zone, I was desperate to stop my first baby from growing up.  Of course, Maddy was less than impressed with her hysterical mother, practicing her pre-teen eyeroll whenever she caught me looking at her.

Just like when she moved from the safe confines of the kindergarten playground to the grade one schoolyard, we have seen lots of change in our little girl over the past few months.  She remains the same type A, smart-as-a-whip schoolgirl she has always been, but her unabated desire to grow up (like, yesterday!) is frightening.  She is desperate to wear makeup (yeah, no!), she gravitates towards clothing favored by teenagers (yeah, no!), and the time she used to spend playing on the street with her friends last year is spent indoors, 'skyping' with her friends.  Remember how we used to talk on the phone with one person at a time?  That was so 1990! Kids today like to 'lol' with 10+ other kids at a time, 'kwim'?  We have also hit the milestone where Maddy would prefer to spend time with her friends rather than (gasp!) socialize with her family.  I knew it would  happen eventually, I just didn't expect it to happen so soon!  

A few weeks ago, Maddy casually mentioned that one of the 'grade eights' at her school was caught with 'weed' in his locker.  I wanted to throw up.  Suddenly, the lack of sleep we faced as new parents over a decade ago looks appealing.  As a result of my deep-seated neurosis about the perils that lie ahead, I habitually seize upon any and every opportunity to talk to Maddy about situations she may face at some point (and if you are stay on top of current events, you know there's plenty to talk about!).  We've talked about bullyingsexting, the dangers of recreational drugs, and dating abuse, to name a few.  Obviously, I don't expect these issues to come up in the near future, however, I don't want to bury my head in the sand and assume they never will.  I'm hoping that by opening the lines of communication now, if certain situations present themselves down the road, our kids will feel comfortable talking to us about them.

Perhaps compounding my neurosis is the realization that the choices I make as a parent can have profound outcomes on how well our children turn out -- I sincerely hope I don't screw it up, there are no do overs in life.  As it stands now, our kids seem to be happy, well-adjusted little people.   I hope that one day they will grow into happy, well-adjusted big people.  Time will tell, I guess.