Beatrix Potter Revisited


Ahh, Peter Rabbit. As a child I rooted for him against the seemingly menacing Mr. McGregor. Having now attempted some gardening of my own, and futily battled against invading rabbits, I have considerably more sympathy for the much maligned Mr. McGregor. Troublesome rabbits notwithstanding, I still bear affection for Peter. I am really excited to introduce my child to the enchanting tales of Beatrix Potter. Not long ago my mother came across my old boxed set of Beatrix Potter stories. The boxes have yellowed, but the books inside look like new.

My father brought these home for me one day when I was about five years old. They really are perfect for little hands and imaginations. The books are all in the same small size as their original publication. Each of the two boxes has a rope handle that makes them easy and fun to carry around. Each side and top of the boxes has one of the beloved original illustrations. Do you remember these?

                                                                                     The gullible Jemima Puddleduck.

                                                    The unlucky Mr. Jeremy Fisher, who is much better off staying home.

Of course Peter Rabbit, as the most famous, gets the tops of the boxes. He can be seen eating stolen carrots at the top of the post. Reading through the stories, I realized that most of the characters suffer unpleasant consequences for poor choices or bad behavior. I hadn’t remembered that from childhood. Do you remember Squirrel Nutkin?

He is pretty much unbearable. While the other squirrels are polite and respectful, Nutkin tries the patience of the old owl with jeers and riddles until the owl decides to skin him. Nutkin escapes, but not before his tail is broken, and he is permanently reformed.

My personal favorite, for sheer “that would never be published today” appeal is The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit.

After forcibly taking a carrot from a good rabbit:

The Fierce Bad Rabbit is enjoying his spoils when a hunter happens by:

This is all that is left of the Fierce Bad Rabbit:

Whew! Don’t steal and bully, kids!

These books are very special to me, and I am glad to have the opportunity to pass them on to my children. Although I don’t know how much my father paid for them, I think it must have been a lot for the time. I can still hear my mother saying, as I carried the boxes around by the rope handles, “Be careful with those books! They weren’t cheap!” Well, Dad, I think you got your mony’s worth.


Thank You Bank Fraud Departmant

Well, the dreaded credit card fraud has struck my account. I tried to make a small purchase with my bank card today and was declined. When I called the bank to find out why, I was told that a large transaction from a men’s clothing store in the U.K. had come through a couple of days ago leaving me with a grand total of $51.00 in my account. Since it seemed suspicious the bank blocked my card until they could verify the transaction with me. Apparently another large transaction, this time from Sweden, tried to come through the account yesterday. Thankfully it had already been frozen. I spoke to a very helpful woman named Cindy who filled out a fraud report, officially cancelled the compromised card, issued me a new one, and explained the whole process that would take place to get the money back. She said the money would most likely be restored, but it could take a while. Sigh. I am grateful to the vigilant fraud department at the bank for recognizing the suspicious activity and freezing the account immediately. Without that action my life would now be a lot more complicated.

It Steams! It Chops! It Defrosts! It Sterilizes!

This delightful tool, a gift from my husband’s sister, will get a lot of use once the baby begins to eat solid food. It is an all-in-one wonder. It steams food, chops and purees it to various consistencies, defrosts frozen foods, sterilizes small items, and takes care of the laundry. Ok, so it doesn’t do the laundry, but it is a pretty remarkable piece of equipment. We will use it first for steaming vegetables. Since we are using baby led weaning, we’ll introduce pieces of food that baby can hold and chew at around six months of age. When the baby can hold a spoon, we’ll use the chop/puree function of the machine. This may seem backwards, as most often babies are first fed purees by their parents and only later given pieces of food. With baby led weaning, though, children are first given foods that they can hold and eat themselves. There are some delicious sounding purees, though, and I think they will be perfect when the baby is learning to use a spoon independently. We have two baby food books: Top 100 Baby Purees by Annabel Karmel and Baby Love by Norah O’Donnell and her husband Geoff Tracy.

I would like to eat many of the foods in these books! Here is just a sample:

From Top 100 Baby Purees:

Trio of Root Vegetables: Sweet Potato, Carrot, and Parsnip

Banana and Blueberry

Tomato, Cauliflower, and Carrot With Basil

From Baby Love:

Baby Guacamole

Strawberry and Fig

Roasted red Pepper and Pomegranate Hummus

As you can see, these foods are a far cry from what is available in jars from the store. They are less expensive, too, since the baby eats the same foods that the family purchases anyway. I am looking forward to using our wonder machine to make delicious, healthy foods for our baby!

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

This balloon is just ducky! It survives from my baby shower almost three weeks ago.

These baby bottle favors from my shower were made by my husband’s aunt. She molded white chocolate and added the color with toothpicks. I haven’t had the heart to eat them!

This little lamb was the first toy purchased for the baby. I saw it early in my pregnancy and couldn’t pass it up.

This adorable giraffe plays Brahms’ Lullaby and slowly moves its head. It also has the same colors as our nursery.

This piggy bank was brought back from Italy by some friends. He looks unassuming but has expensive taste.

This was worn by my husband as a baby, and will be worn home for the first time by our little one.

This is my diaper bag. It is currently packed with all the things baby will need for coming home after birth. I like the colors and style.

We’ve got everything else… now we just need the baby!

The Classroom of Life

Here is a link to a post on the blog The Parenting Construction Site explaining the Montessori classroom in action. The Montessori classroom prepares children for competency in life. Please check it out!

Preparing Children for the Classroom Called “Life”

On Dignity and a Giant Raccoon

I have a goal going into parenthood of providing an environment marked by beauty, order, and simplicity for my child. It has long been a given that there will be no garish colors, no big cartoon characters, nothing of questionable taste. This morning, though, I have been thinking about a beloved toy from my childhood that today would not meet my standards for my child’s environment: a giant, unnaturally colored stuffed raccoon. When I received it as a gift at three years old it was bigger than me. The fur was a pinkish purple color and it looked like it was wearing a rainbow colored vest. It was only identifiable as a raccoon by the black patches around its eyes. If I saw something like it today I would think it hideous. At three years old, though, I thought it was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen. It was big enough to use as a chair. I could sleep on it. It could sit at my child-sized table sipping invisible tea without need of a seat. It took up a lot of room. The other stuffed animals were subject to it. (Except Huggy Bear, a polar bear who was missing a nose and had stitches above one eye and was the undisputed king of the toys.) I loved that strange raccoon until I was bigger than it and the fur was rubbed raw in many patches. It finally went to where all good toys go when they begin to disintegrate, and I grieved its loss.

I am sure I would not choose a toy such as my old companion the raccoon for my child. However, if the child receives such a thing as a gift I will be okay with it. While I still want to create a Montessori-style simple, beautiful, natural environment for my child, I will not obsess on perfection. My goal is to raise a child who is dignified and has an appreciation and preference for things of value and substance. My friend the strange raccoon did not prevent these desires in me, and thinking about that wonderful, awful toy helps me relax and realize that a less-than-model environment will not lead to undignified taste.

Wanted: Marathon Moms

With elite runners like Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher competing in and even winning marathons soon after having babies, perhaps there is hope for us mere mortals who just want to finish the distance. My baby will be born in May, and I am going to begin as soon as medically responsible to train for a marathon in October. I got out my old copy of Hal Higdon’s much-loved book Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide and began looking over the training plans, speculating as to when I could begin training and how many weeks I would have between then and race day. It feels good to be at the point where it is reasonable to make plans for after the baby is born!

For those of you who have participated in a marathon after giving birth, and for those of you who want to give it a go, please stop by and add your experiences, advice, and struggles. If you have a different distance in mind, or a different athletic goal, please feel free to chime in. I’m just walking these days, but will chronicle my training experiences once I can run again. To be a Marathon Mom is achievable– many others have proved it, Paula and Kara most famously. Here’s to challenges, to testing the limits of what the human body can do. Let’s encourage and support each other to reach the goal! Shoes? Check. Jogging stroller? Check. Determination? Check. Nothing fancy needed.

Contemplating Elimination Communication From Birth

I am really intrigued by the idea of elimination communication. After first finding out about it online, I read Christine Gross-Loh’s book Diaper Free Baby. The title may be a little misleading– most parents who use elimination communication with their children use diapers at least some of the time. It also takes some pressure off to read that elimination communication is not an all or nothing prospect. Some families do it all the time, some do it part time, or even only at specific times. It all boils down to observing the cues and patterns surrounding the child’s eliminations and offering the toilet or child’s potty in response to those cues and patterns. Elimination communication advocates stress that it is not about toilet training at the earliest possible time, but more about the communication between child and parent. I have to admit that I am approaching it for the early toilet independence.

One thing that stands out to me from reading about elimination communication is the idea that relying solely on diapers is effectively “diaper training” the child, almost guaranteeing a stressful transition to toileting. This seems to make sense– if a child has been using diapers exclusively for his or her whole life why would the child not want to continue using the diapers? The idea behind offering the toilet from a very young age is so that the child does not become used to the feeling of a wet or soiled diaper. When the child does have a “miss”, as elimination communication advocates call it, the child is more likely to let the parent know quickly. No one expects to catch every urination or bowel movement. Catching at least some of them, though, ensures that the child experiences eliminating outside of a diaper and hopefully comes to prefer doing so.

I am planning to begin elimination communication from birth. I do not plan to be rigid or fanatical about it. I hope to progress naturally, in a loving and stress free way. It helps to remember that “elimination communication” is just a new term for an old concept. There is a lot of talk in elimination communication circles about early toileting in other cultures. Also, it seems the typical diapered western child is diaper dependant much longer today than even in the relatively recent past. I believe the many parents who say that their children have become toilet independent sooner than is culturally expected, and I am going to give my child that opportunity. Why keep a child in diapers longer than necessary?

I just ordered an infant potty bowl to use from birth. It is not necessary to purchase a product designated as an infant potty– a regular bowl or even plastic container is used by many families. I bought this because– well, because I don’t want to look so weird to our family and friends. We are doing a lot of things differently. I am confident about trying all of them and willing to explain and to accept criticism. I don’t mind if people express disagreement with our choices. But I do think it will be easier to explain that we are using an infant potty bowl than an old cottage cheese container. Maybe that makes me a weenie. At any rate, the infant potty bowl can be held between the parent’s thighs and is said to be the perfect size and shape for babies. We’ll see.

We are also using cloth diapers, which are said to be more conducive to elimination communication than disposables because the child feels the wetness more directly. We made the decision to use cloth early on, before I had even heard of elimination communication. It just seems more economical to make one larger investment at the beginning and not have to purchase disposables over and over. We went with FuzziBunz, a pocket style cloth diaper. My mother purchased them for us as a gift, spending about $285.00. We chose the “one size” option, which adjust to fit babies from 7-40 lbs. I like that her one time purchase will cover the whole time our child uses diapers, and subsequent children if the diapers are well cared for. We do have one package of disposables, which we received as a gift. We are taking a couple to the birth center (along with the potty bowl) because I would rather have meconium in the disposables than the cloth diapers. Although I have no direct experience with meconium, hearing how tarry and difficult to remove it is makes me not want to chance ruining a cloth diaper with it.

I look forward to chronicling our experience with elimination communication. If it is working for us I will write about it, and if it is not working for us I will write about that, too.

Totally Warped


My loom is all warped up and ready for weaving! I am making a baby blanket. This is my first attempt at weaving cloth wider than the width of my loom using a technique called doubleweave. I am using the technique to make cloth with a fold at one side that will open up to be twice as wide as the loom. It can also be used to make tubular cloth, double sided cloth, and other interesting things. There is information on how to do this technique available online for free, but I found that I didn’t really understand after looking at the internet resources, so I got this book by Jennifer Moore:

It gives very clear instructions and offers many attractive projects. My project does not come from the book– I got it more for the explanation.

This is what the back of the loom looks like after all of the warp threads are on and tied. By the time this is accomplished every single thread has passed individually through the weaver’s fingers several times. First each thread must be cut, then each thread goes through a single slot in a reed and through the eye of a heddle. This is tedious and sometimes frustrating work. Tangles happen, threads sometimes get crossed, or dents in the reed skipped. It takes hours to get the loom looking so ordered. But the fun part is next!

This is the front of the loom, where the cloth will be created. Actual weaving, after the warp has been set, is rhythmic and meditative. The shuttle is passed back and forth through the warp threads, which can be raised and lowered in different combinations based on how may shafts the loom has. Cloth starts to form as if by magic from what previously were unruly individual threads. Here is my shuttle, loaded with what will be the weft thread, and a hook used to draw individual threads through the heddles and the reed during the warping process:

Now the fun begins! Weaving actually goes fairly quickly. I hope to have the blanket finished in time to take to the birthing center to welcome the baby. We’ll see!

I need to give credit to the generous woman who taught me to weave and gave me my loom. She asked no monetary compensation. She just wanted to pass on the skill to another person, to keep the art of hand weaving alive. The loom she gave me would sell for many hundreds of dollars, but she passed it on free of charge. I would not have been able to purchase a loom– it is a very valuable gift. The skill of weaving that she taught me is, of course, priceless. Thank you, G.C.!

Why a Birth Center?

Moms have choices as to where and how they want to birth their babies. Gone are the days when everyone went to the hospital– and before that when everyone had to birth at home. When I was considering where to birth, my first thought was to stay home. There would be no rush to another birthing place, we would remain in our own comfortable environment, baby’s first moments would be spent surrounded by the things that will become part of his or her life, and I would be in complete control of my movements and choices during labor.

However, as this is my first child I do not know what to expect during labor. My husband is supportive of home birth, but I think choosing to remain home for our first birth would have caused him and our family great anxiety. The most common birthing place, though, the hospital, was out of consideration from the beginning. While some hospitals are better than others, in all of them the birth process is subject to hospital routine and protocol. A routine IV is pretty much universal practice, fetal monitoring that requires the mom to lay on her back is most often required, and moms are usually restricted to the flat on the back/knees pushed up to chest position for pushing. This position is the easiest for the doctor who is catching the baby, but it does not allow the mother’s pelvis to open to full capacity, resulting in more difficultly for the baby in coming through the pelvis. This leads to greater likelihood of tearing or episiotomy, longer pushing, and greater chance of surgical intervention. When I learned that mothers birthing in hospitals must submit unquestioningly to one-size-fits-all policies I knew I did not want to go that route. Not every birth follows the same pattern. Why try to make everything the same for the convenience of the medical staff?

There is another, less well known option. Birthing centers provide the security of knowing that medical help is available if needed, but trust the ability of the woman’s body to birth a baby. Birth is not treated as a medical emergency unless a complication really does occur, whereupon it is treated. When birth happens in the way it is supposed to happen– when the woman’s body is allowed to do what it is designed to do in birth and trusted to be able to allow the baby to pass from the womb– there are no arbitrary restrictions on what a mom can do and how she must birth. Midwives encourage the mother to adopt the positions during labor that will best help baby proceed down the birth canal and provide maximum space for baby to pass through the pelvis. The mother is encouraged to drink to stay hydrated, and to eat if she feels so inclined. The injunction against food and drink during labor in hospitals is a precautionary measure in case general anesthesia is required. Since general anesthesia is a very rare measure during birth, birthing centers take the approach that it is better for mom to keep hydrated and strong while performing a very strenuous task than to be restricted to ice chips for fear of needing anesthesia. Birthing centers also allow new mothers to go home sooner than hospitals. If mom and baby are healthy and mom wants to go home a few hours after birth there is nothing stopping her. I’d much rather bond with my baby and recover in my own home.

I think birthing centers will grow steadily in popularity. As more and more women choose birthing centers and come away with stories of safe, calm births they will become more socially acceptable. The birth center that I am using is freestanding (not associated with a hospital), but is just across the street from the hospital. In the fourteen years it has been operating there have been two emergency transfers, both of which resulted in healthy moms and babies. More women than that have chosen to transfer to the hospital for pain medication. (There are no epidurals offered at the birth center.) I like those numbers– you can transfer if you want, but only two women in fourteen years have actually had a medical reason to transfer. That reiterates for me that birth is usually a safe, non-emergency process.

It is true that many women did previously die during childbirth. My own great-grandmother died giving birth at home in 1919. The difference now is that moms are transferred right away when complications arise, and there are more medical interventions available when they are truly needed. We can also stop postpartum hemorrhage, which was a major factor in maternal death. All in all, women have more options in birth now than ever. I am so thankful that we are not all locked in to the same routine procedures! I will write about my experience at the birth center after my baby is born. Anyone who would like to share their birth story, wherever you chose to birth, is welcome to do so via comments.