I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Earth-Friendly Butts

Jackson loving his cloth diapers at 14 months

A cute eco-Ayla butt at almost 2 years old!

A few weekends ago, I decided to honor Earth Day and invest more into my cloth diapering scheme. I'll take a majority of the claim on the cloth diapers, even though Gregory does participate, because I'm usually the one obsessing about them and finding a deep satisfaction in the eco-friendliness of it all.
We've been using cloth diapers since Ayla was about 18 months old. It was the prospect of bringing another baby into the mix (I was preggers with Jackson at the time) and finally getting a hold on parenthood that gave us the courage to launch the cloth diaper adventure. Anyone that has ever thought about it or tried it enters a world of crazy new terms and so many unknown products. I totally agree that it is overwhelming. BUT then totally easy.

I'm serious - it's easy. I won't take excuses from other parents anymore. If you have a baby/toddler, you are changing diapers anyways. The only difference is that you throw these diapers in a pail (then the wash) instead of the trash. Yes you must rinse off the really messy ones into the toilet with the handy dandy diaper sprayer. But I would honestly recommend the sprayer to anyone with kids or pets. I also use it to spray off dirty crocs or clothing when the inevitable messes occur. It is also recommended that ALL diaper (disposable or not) waste be disposed of through the sewer system because it is *gross* a biohazard in the landfill. Diapers tied up in plastic bags, including the evil Diaper Genie, do NOT break down in the landfill.

I digress. I won't launch into a tirade of eco-information because I'm not completely innocent. We still use disposable diapers if someone is babysitting or if we are going to be out of the house for a long afternoon. But 90% of the time, I do my part by using cloth.

There are so many wonderful products. We've never used pins (we use Snappis) and choosing from all the diaper covers is like making a major fashion statement. They range from Dr. Seuss to tie-dye. And they're so damn cute! Even when the cloth diapers are bulky and I have Jackson double/triple layered - his big baby butt running around makes me happy.

Our latest purchase was from the Pittsburgh Cloth Diapers website. I was looking for better options to diaper Jackson overnight. We've been blessed with a boy that sleeps for sometimes 12 hours - so you need a serious diaper to last all of that time.

Meet this serious piece of fleece:

It is meant to fit over any diaper - like some awesome snow pants for bedtime. If anything, this will save your crib sheets.

The best part is that after placing my order, I get a phone call from one of the owners (friend of a friend) and he is setting up a home delivery. He lives just a few minutes away and I get free delivery service to my front door. Nice touch.

My kids don't really understand that they have very earth-friendly butts. It has been both an economical and ecological plus for our family. Instead of spending money time and time again on boxes of disposable diapers (we buy a box about every 2 months instead of every 2 weeks like other parents I know), we spent the money ONCE. A sizeable investment at first, I will admit, but I am literally not throwing that money away in the garbage seven times a day.

I throw it in the diaper pail, then the wash and then admire their clean, reusable beauty as they dry on the clothesline.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Take it SLooooooooowwwwww

Who knows where it came from, but Ayla has a little bit of a habit for disfluency. Stuttering. We first noticed it over six months ago; but as she was really learning to put together sentences, it did not alarm us. Her most common thing is to have trouble getting out "W" words and sometimes at the the start of a thought with "I". ("W-w-where are we going?") She has only shown concern a few times, saying "I don't speak very well."

That was enough to get me on the internet - searching for the right course of action. Do you ignore it? Do you correct it? Is it even an abnormal habit for a toddler? Turns out it is better to tackle stuttering long before the child becomes aware that it could be considered an "affliction". She isn't self-conscious, but it would only take a few smart-ass kids in school to change that. Thank God for our UPMC insurance which is supportive of preventive, early-childhood intervention.

Gregory and I went to Children's Hospital today for our second parent session for Ayla's slight stuttering/disfluency issues. The methodology is not to try to correct your child or make them get the words right. Despite what feels logical - it is counter productive to tell a child to sloooooowww down. It just makes them feel shamed and frustrated. We are learning how to slightly tweak our speaking habits at home, instead of making a huge deal out of it. On one hand we didn't cause the stuttering (it is mostly a cause of genetics and personality), but we can certainly help Ayla learn smoother ways of communicating.

It is going to be hard for us to change! First, we have to slow our rate of talking. Our cadence. And when I am paying attention, I notice that I talk very quickly. I start thoughts and then switch to another and get tripped over what I'm trying to say. It's not stuttering, but I'm sure it can sound scattered to a kid. It doesn't help that I am often impatient and trying to accomplish too many things at once. Secondly, we have to incorporate a different way of asking questions. The goal is to not make Ayla feel "on the spot" to speak at any time. No pressure. No time constraints. Instead of asking a direct question, it is recommended to speak abstractly like, "I wonder what you did with the babysitter" or "It would be nice if you said thank you" (instead of demanding that your child thank someone - which I do ALL the time!)

Ayla will attend a few one-on-one sessions with the speech therapist over the next couple of weeks. Of course, the stuttering has seemed to really clear itself up since we've gone to Children's - before any real treatment has begun. But the therapist warned that stuttering comes and goes regardless of therapy. All we can do is learn better ways of dealing with it.

The coolest part to look forward to is the secret room I get to watch the sessions in - through a one-sided mirror!!! It will be very interesting to see how Ayla behaves with another adult without knowing I can see her. Very science experiment!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Thank You!"

Last night at work, I was literally "thank-you'd" out of about thirty dollars. This phenomenon of restaurant patrons tipping their servers with compliments instead of money is better explained in the book, Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica. You can tell about half-way through a meal if a certain table is trying to make up for their lack of monetary compensation with an overabundance of compliments.

Scary phrases like, "We love this restaurant soooooooo much. We really appreciate your good service, we are going to ask for you next time." It sounds benign enough, but after that is said about four times - I start to get worried. For some reason, people think it's an either-or situation. Either they are nice and thankful, or they are quiet and thank me with 20% instead. Obviously, I'd prefer people to keep their words to themselves and give me the money.

It goes back to the principle: if you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to eat out. Get take-out instead (and still you should leave something, if not 20%. That food order didn't magically take itself or put itself in boxes). I'd much rather have an empty restaurant with two or three good customers than run around like an ass on a Saturday night for 10% tips! And it's not just about greed or feeling that I'm entitled to something (although I am a good server).

The fact is I have to tip out several people based on my sales alone - not whether I was tipped appropriately. I can handle the burn of a customer ordering three margaritas, needing their water refilled five times and chip refills and dessert and more tortillas - and then leave four dollars. However, I cannot handle tipping out both the busser and bartender all of that money.

Maybe last night was a full-moon or people owed too much money on their taxes, but it was a "thank you" epidemic. Full of compliments, praise, appreciation and questions about my growing pregnant stomach - but certainly not full of generosity. I can't send a note to the mortgage company explaining my excellent performance at my job. I send MONEY. It's why I'm working. Not for the joy of seeing people eat enchiladas and thank me for it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

An Unfortunate Anniversary

This week marked the 12th anniversary of my father's death in 1998. I call it an unfortunate anniversary - for obvious reasons, but also because commemorating the date of someone's passing is complicated. Should it even be called an anniversary? Anniversary is a word used for celebratory, happy events. Should I be focusing on what was my Dad's birthday instead?

However you look at it, the day comes every year - usually sneaking up on me. I start to feel crappy at the end of March, dreading the passing of another year gone by and walk around with a sick feeling in my stomach the entire day of April 14th. I can function; I don't reserve the entire afternoon for mulling over the questions of existence at the cemetery. But it brings me back to the original day I found out my father had died twelve years ago. And the fact that is has been so unbelievably long since that day. Twelve years! I was a senior in high school the last time I saw my father - now I'm on the verge of 30, deep into motherhood with two kids and one on the way, a homeowner, a registered Democrat (which would have surely pissed him off!), incredibly happy in my marriage and a college graduate.

The perspective turns towards the ego-centric when so much time has passed from one important life-changing event. How much I have changed, how much I've done, the places I've seen. How much Pittsburgh has changed! My Dad would be blown away with my cell phone and PNC Park alone. But that's not what is important. The relationship was (is) important. All of the things I learned from him - either the right or wrong way, since he was far from a perfect person.

I always listen to Billy Joel's song "Summer, Highland Falls" to put my emotions into tangible words. I have no idea what the song is supposed to be about - but for me and my relationship with a parent with bi-polar disorder - it gets the message across quite nicely.

"They say that these are not the best of times
But they're the only time I've ever known
And I believe there is a time for meditation
In cathedrals of your own
Now I've seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes
And I can only stand apart and sympathize
For we are always what our situations hand us
It's either sadness or euphoria

So we'll argue and we'll compromise
And realize that nothing's ever changed
For all our mutual experience
Our separate conclusions are the same
Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity
And reason coexist with our insanity
And our reason coexist with our insanity
It's either sadness or euphoria

How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies
Perhaps we don't fulfill each other's fantasies
And as we stand upon the ledges of our lives
With our respective similarities
It's either sadness or euphoria"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


A few weeks ago, while at work, I had quite an awkward moment with a customer.

He was one of those overly talkative customers who had to make a comment about everything. "Oh, wow, you're refilling my Iced Tea. " But in a nice way.

I was clearing the lunch plates when he pointed to me and said, "Gee, someone must love you very much..."

I look down and all I can see is my clearly pregnant stomach.


I looked back at him, then back at my stomach and then back again... until he finally clarifies and says that my diamond ring was very interesting. Good lord dude - you should have just said that in the first place!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Comfort Toothpaste

All of the advertising money spent in the toothpaste industry is a waste for this family. I would say that I am more of an emotional consumer when it comes to oral hygiene. I used to only buy whatever brand ended up being the lowest price with a coupon. (Although I don't go as far as to buy the store brand of toothpaste - do they even make that?) But now I am more sentimental than anything when it comes time to choose the toothpaste that sits on our bathroom sink.

I'm sure this isn't a topic that a lot of people give much thought to. It's toothpaste - who cares? But it became poignant to me when I realized my kids were becoming "attached" to certain brands and flavors. Toothpaste is one of those distinctively different things in every family. It's not a conscious decision, much like where cereal is stored in the kitchen cabinet. It's just the way your family does it ; and therefore it becomes an item of comfort.

But doesn't everyone remember what brand their family used growing up? I have clear memories of loving the cool Aquafresh dispenser. We used Pepsodent and Close-Up (the red cinnamon gel!!!) and my mother even brushed her teeth with plain baking soda. These are permanent fixtures in my childhood memories. And then when Crest came out with sparkly, blue kids' toothpaste with stars in it - that was a luxury item.

All of these thoughts came flooding back to me when we received a sample tube of that same Crest bubble-gum sparkly toothpaste. My kids were enthralled and literally sucked it off the toothbrush. Isn't the sense of smell supposed to be the strongest memory-inducer? It conjured up memories of camp, sleepovers and the pediatric dentist office.

Our household uses the many varieties of Tom's of Maine toothpaste. It isn't sweetened by saccharin, so it is more mild than conventional brands. Their flavors like mango, gingermint and cinnamon clove are definitely worth trying.

Instead of comfort food, I think about comfort toothpaste. It's a product that sticks with us for life - think about what brand you are using and how that started!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Nest

Blame it on the hormones. I'm "nesting" like crazy. I'm also creating a lot of nesting issues by forgetting where I left things, losing things altogether and putting things in completely wrong places.

Everyone I know admits to sometimes walking into a room and not remembering why they went there. Or walking up the stairs to get something that was right in front of your face the entire time. Or opening up the fridge to find the car keys or opened mail or the scissors.

It turns out the brain eventually runs out of space and we can only remember things that are distinctively different. We have to create folds to remember new information - or else the "memory" just passes through quickly, only to be recalled for a short time. I think pregnancy has, um, accelerated this process because I am quickly losing my mind! I reserve all of my useful brain time for work, when my income depends on remembering whether a person wanted salt on their margarita.

My nesting instinct is causing me to turn entire areas of the house upside-down. It's not just your typical open the windows-bright sunlight-glaring at you dirt-spring cleaning. I have to take things apart and use the dust buster. I used half a spray bottle of cleaner yesterday, just in my household travels. I'm even worried about the "clutter" in the basement, which is the quintessential place to hide all of the clutter you don't want to worry about - ever.

But with the nesting, comes the absent minded placement of items. I searched for the checkbook for two days, only to find it right behind the basket we always keep it in. We needed copies of our paystubs for an application - which we had two weeks ago - but has mysteriously disappeared. I couldn't "find" my black shirt in the laundry today for over an hour. That is, until I saw it sitting in a pile in the basement. NEXT TO THE WASHING MACHINE.

Gregory is convinced that I am just building a nest somewhere in the house. Perhaps in my sleep. We're going to open a closet and find that I've shredded those paystubs with my teeth and fashioned a nest out of them. We'll find missing socks and jewelry and my garden shovel (where could THAT be?) all woven together. Part of me hopes it is true - then I'll be able to find all of these things that have gone missing!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Weekend

Every holiday I've encountered since leaving the hotel industry is still remarkable to me - I get to actually participate in "normal" family activities! We attended our first major egg hunt in the Leetsdale Henle Park and had a relaxing dinner Sunday night.
I had been using the Easter Bunny as somewhat of a threat the week leading up to the holiday. As in, "If you don't stop hitting Jackson, the Easter Bunny is going to find out and decide you don't need any eggs!" Or, "Did you know that Santa Claus can call the Easter Bunny and tell him whether you are being good?"

It worked so well that on Friday night as Ayla was trying to fall asleep, she got upset that the EB was "taking so long to get here." I'm going to take full advantage of these years that the holidays are exciting to them.The Henle Park Egg Hunt was very well organized. This year they wanted to get all of the kids registered ahead of time and separated them into two age groups. The older, more deft children (6 to 10) had their own area while the little kids (1 to 5) could take their time and not risk injury for taking a few minutes to inspect the eggs. Apparently last year the organizers encountered some trouble when a random woman came to the park and took close to 50 eggs for herself, claiming that it was a public place and they couldn't stop her. If a grown woman really wants that many cheap lollipops to herself - I guess she deserves the wrath of the Leetsdale community. No such creepsters attended the event this year.

We hid eggs around the first floor and in Ayla's room as well. We wanted her to wake up and know right away that the EB had made his visit. Sure enough, I was woken up with Ayla holding several eggs and whispering excitedly that the "Easter Bunny brought me eggs!" She found the rest of the hidden eggs around the house within minutes and had to hold her off so Jackson could find a few. Obviously, Ayla has not inherited my innate non-ability to find hidden objects. I spent many an Easter in my youth frustrated and pouting because (1) I couldn' t find my basket to save my life and (2) I was a loser at egg hunts and always needed my parents' help.

I filled their baskets with some classic goodies like a bubble wand, Silly Putty and Candyland. They also got some cookware upgrades to their play kitchen. We also indulged with a little bit of candy - and two days later, we are down to the last Peep.

I'll consent to the overwhelming opinion that these types of holidays are so much more fun with children involved. Sure, there were a few sugar meltdowns. But it brings me a lot of joy to get excited about Easter again - and see that my children are better egg-hunters than I ever was!