Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

The Inner Beauty of a 6 Month Old

November 19th, 2009 1 comment

I think I have the most beautiful daughter in the world.  Just check out this picture from Halloween:

2009-October and November 177

Every chance I get, I tell her she is beautiful.  Beth and I constantly ask ourselves, “Honestly, could she get any cuter?”  I feel like we were playing Russian Roulette with my looks being in the gene pool, and luckily she turned out pretty good looking (if in 10 years she has a uni-brow and a beard, you know who to blame).

But I will be honest with you, sometimes I worry about her being so beautiful.  Will she grow up and be vain?  Will she have difficulty understanding inner beauty because she always possessed outer beauty?  If (when) her outer beauty fades, will she allow it to bother her?

I ask these questions but at the end of the day I don’t really worry about them.  That’s because Mikayla has an amazing personality for a baby. She is content and inquisitive.  She would rather smile than cry.  She enjoys company and can play alone.

In fact, instead of worrying about her, I have found she has many things she can teach me.

  • The joy of discovery – I am going to take credit for her constant fascination with everything around her.  I am pretty sure she gets spirit of inquiry from me.  However, whereas I usually approach things with a great deal of skepticism, Mikayla also approaches new things with joy and wonder.  She is excited about every new thing…. even when it turns out she does not like it (like with avocados).  Sometimes my own questioning brings about negativity.  I wish I were more like Mikayla and could find joy in every question and discovery.
  • Approach everything with a smile – Mikayla’s first response to a situation is to smile.  It doesn’t matter if it is her mother reaching for her, or someone she has never met.  She is always happy to see you.  This is even true of things that might threaten her.  Our dog sometimes get skitish when Mikayla is on the floor.  Sometimes Shiloh will bark at her.  Still though, she smiles and laughs and loves.  If only I were so accepting.
  • Explore your possibilities, but be content where you are – Mikayla is usually very happy where ever she is, whether it in her crib, on the floor, in someone’s arms, or in her car seat.  At the same time though, she is always looking around and exploring every nook and cranny.  However, she does not allow that inquiry to make her discontent.  She wants to know what’s on the other side of the crib, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy it there.  Mikayla uses the discovery process to better understand her current situation – not simply to try and replace it.  I wish I could have such an attitude.
  • Let people know when you are hurting and how they can help – Beth and I have learned Mikayla’s various cries.  She lets us know when she is hungry or tired or has gas or when she just wants to be held.  She is able to tell us how we can help her.   Looking at myself, that is something I need to do better.  Even when I know I am hurting, it is rare for me to let people into my world so they can know how they can help me.
    There is plenty we can learn from babies.  Unfortunately instead of letting them teach us, we all to often try to make them see things our way.  I hope in the years to come I can be a loving and effective teacher for my beautiful daughter, but more importantly, I hope I can always be her student and let her constantly teach me.

New Baby Check List

September 15th, 2009 8 comments

Mikayla is now 4 months old and Beth and I have learned a lot.  I remember just a few months ago walking through Target with the price gun to do our baby registry and getting frustrated because I had no clue what we needed.  (This could be my version of hell.  I hate feeling like I don’t know what is going on and I really hate shopping.  To make it worse we weren’t even shopping — at least with shopping you get to get open up something new and read the instruction manual).

Nursery prior to Mikayla's arrival

Nursery prior to Mikayla's arrival

Now that we have a feel for what it is like to raise a new baby, I feel like I can make a list of the things you really need (at least the things we did).  We certainly don’t have things figured out, but if we had to start over, these are things I would make sure we have.

Dealing with poop

  • 15-25 cloth diapers.  We chose fuzzi bunz.  I have written an entire post on our cloth diaper decision.
  • Enough NB/1 disposal diapers to get through the cord falling off and for emergencies — we also used them at night the first month or so, but later learned that was unnecessary.
  • 2-3 wet bags
  • 5 gallon wet/dry pail
  • Diaper detergent (see this post for more insights)
  • Changing pad (we put this on an old dresser and skipped the formal changing table)
  • Diaper bag
  • Travel changing pad (we slip a few disposable diapers and our wipes in this for simplicity)
  • Wipes


  • 6-8 4 oz bottles (we used these initially and now use them for storage)
  • 6-8 8 oz bottles (we use Dr. Brown’s for all our bottles – they are compatible with Medela pumps and seem to work.  See here.)
  • Beth’s stuff (obviously I don’t use this stuff)
    • Medela breast pump
    • Nursing wrap
    • Lansinol nipple cream
    • Breast shells (not shields) – we never used these b/c we could not find them in time, but I think they would have really helped the first 2 weeks)
    • nursing pads
    • 3-4 nursing bras
  • Bottle warmer
  • Bottle drying rack
  • Bottle brush
  • Milk storage bags


  • Bouncy chair
  • Some sort of stand-up exerciser
  • Wrap / chest carrier / sling
  • play mat
  • Swing (this has not been used as much as we thought it would, but when we use it, it was golden and irreplaceable)
  • A few tactile toys


  • Crib
  • pack and play
  • 2 swaddling blanket / wrap (kidopotamus makes an awesome one we used for the first 2 months)
  • 2 sleep sacks
  • gowns (don’t even try to use footed pajamas the first few months)
  • a few stocking caps
  • monitor
  • every pacifier imaginable to find out which the baby prefers and then at least 4 of the “winner”
  • Bedding set (no need for a fancy one)


  • you will need some of these, but you will find it has less to do with practicality and more with “cuteness” and personal taste.  My only recommendation is to avoid anything that requires more than 2 steps to get to poop-production-plant.  I personally gravitate towards the onsies.
  • Dressers / cabinets / drawers / etc.

Bathing / Medicine

  • Bath tub (I was opposed to getting one of these because I thought it was unnecessary, but it has proven very useful).
  • Children’s Tylenol
  • gas drops
  • baby wash
  • baby shampoo
  • wash cloths
  • snot sucker (We also use an aerosol saline to help make this more effective)
  • Baby towel
  • hair brush
  • temperature checker
  • rectal thermometer
  • nail clippers (we used nail files the first month)


  • Stroller
  • Car seat (we have a nice travel system where the seat has a base and fits on the stroller)

I am sure I have left a few things off, but I certainly wish I had this list going into the whole process.  Of course Beth could add things, especially as they relate to pregnancy and post-natal care.  I also have listed the things I am sure we will need when Mikayla “goes mobile” such as outlet plugs, cabinet locks and hallway gates, but I figure this is a good start.

Mikayla and me at 4 months at Jackson's Orchard.

Mikayla and me at 4 months at Jackson's Orchard. She has reason to be concerned.

Mikayla and the Thug Life

July 2nd, 2009 3 comments
Mikayla showing off her tats

Mikayla showing off her tats

If Mikayla only had a father, these “tattoos” would have been done in sharpie; but since she has a rational mother as well, photoshop will suffice.

Now, before you bash me as a bad father who is projecting negative images on innocent Mikayla, let me explain my thoughts behind this image and then perhaps I can redeem myself.

You see, Mikayla will sometimes “box” with her little hands and punch at the air.  Occasionally she will pause with her clenched fists extended.  This reminded me of the knuckle tattoos that my white, middle-class, suburban friends would draw in middle school as they mimicked what they thought were signs of street life (which the knew nothing about).  My simple mind found humor (crude as it may be) in the juxtaposition between innocence and raw street life.  (Just so you know, I am not the only one who thinks this way. See here, here and here.)

The phrase “Thug Life” started with Tupac Shakur, a New York rapper who was killed in the mid-nineties.  It is often assumed that Thug Life refers gang activity, drugs and crime; however this was never the image that Tupac intended.  Urban Dictionary defines it as such:

Thug life is when you have nothing, and succeed, when you have overcome all obstacles to reach your aim.

If you dig deeper into the phrase, you will actually find it is quite appropriate to consider it along side the image of a newborn as it is supposedly based on an acronym for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F#@&s Everyone.”  Another Urban Dictionary definition explains this concepts by saying:

T.H.U.G.  L.I.F.E.  stands for all the socially oppressive things we are taught at a young age that negatively affects us (or society) as adults.

The focus then is on the environments that breed hate, distrust, corruption and pain.  Thug Life is about overcoming your environment and breaking the cycle in order to achieve your dreams.

Now back to Mikayla’s tats.  The irony is deeper that simply an infant with tattoos commonly seen on the streets.  The irony is that Mikayla will probably never experience the pain and struggles that led Tupac to conceive of the idea of the Thug Life.  Mikayla has a life ahead of her with two parents that love her dearly and are willing to sacrifice immensely for her success.  She will grow up (most of her life) in the richest country in the world and be given the opportunity to attain the best education possible.  She will be given cultural opportunities that expand her horizons and challenge her worldview.  She will be raised by open minded parents who seek a just world with diversity and tolerance.

Mikayla will never have to come home to an empty house as an elementary student, or see her parents shoot up, or need to know that you need to duck when you hear gun shots.  She will not be forced to move every 3 months to avoid paying rent, or be shuffled in foster care.  She will never have to worry about where her next meal will come from, or where she will sleep.  On the international stage, Mikayla will never have to fear being abducted and forced to be a child solider, or of dying of preventable diseases.  She will never have to rely on the UN to take care of her along with millions others in a refuge camp.

Mikayla will never experience the Thug Life.

But even that has been a painful truth for me to grapple with.  Why is our daughter so special?  What has she done to deserve it?  While I would argue I have a very special daughter, the truth is her advantages come simply because she was born to us.  There is nothing she did to earn it.  At the same time, those that are not so lucky are just as innocent as Mikayla.  They don’t deserve the pain and suffering they will go through.

Realizing my love for my daughter has caused me to hurt so much more for those who do not experience this same love.  It has awaken me afresh to the injustices of this world and caused me to lament deeply the suffering of the innocent.  In fact, is has brought me to tears.

These thoughts have been plaguing me for some time.  The second week of Mikayla’s life I wrote this:

My love for my daughter causes me to hurt even deeper for the unloved. Love brings about pain; how do we ensure the opposite is true as well.

I am not hopeful I will ever figure it out, but it is not my desire to no longer feel the pain of this tension.  Instead, I want to be constantly reminded of the blessings I have been given and extend to Mikayla and likewise discontent with the unearned and undeserved pain and tragedy others inherent.  May the pain injustice bring about healing, peace and love.  May the day come when no one experiences the Thug Life.

*Just so you know, I really would not have put sharpie tattoos on my 2 month old daughter… but I did think about it 😉

Not Your Daddy’s Diapers

June 21st, 2009 No comments

Seriously?  Your doing what?

That is the typical response Beth and I get when we inform people we are using cloth diapers.  There are varying levels of shock.  Some people think we are absolutely crazy, others are cool with it until we tell them we are not using “a service” but washing them ourselves.  Most people can appreciate the idea but insist it is not worth the effort.  At least half try to wager with us that we will stop using them within a month or so.  Very few are excited about it and open to cloth diapers as a mainstream option.

To the doubters, I must insist: you simply do not understand.

These are not the cloth diapers my generation was raised on (my parents started me on cloth, but abandoned early on).  Many people blindly assume that using cloth diapers involves rubber bloomers and safety pins.  While you can still do it like that, things have come a long way.  Beth and I use a brand called Fuzzi Bunz that are of a style known as pockets.  Basically they look like regular diapers.  They have a water proof shell, a fleece liner and a place where you can insert micro-terry pads.  Fuzzi Bunz use snaps and adjust to wide range of sizes (other pocket styles use velcro).  Putting the diapers on and taking them off is as easy as disposable.

Waterproof Shell in variety of colors

Waterproof Shell in variety of colors

Fleece Liner and Micro Terry Inserts

Fleece Liner and Micro Terry Inserts

What about cleaning them?

That is where admitedly it gets a bit more difficult than disposable.  You don’t just throw them away [TANGENT: this is actually the primary reason we went with cloth diapers, we could not stand the thought of throwing away 8-12 diapers a day for the next 2 years].  We do it this way:  Right after changing Mikayla, we take the daiper to the backroom, rinse the poo off in the toilet and then throw the diaper into a plastic 5 gallon bucket with lid and sprinkle a little baking soda every now and again.  At most it takes an additional minute to do this step.  When we are on the road, we carry a water proof bag with us and just rinse the diapers when we get home.  When we running low (we have 27 diapers now) we take the whole bag to the washing machine, dump it out, run it through a rinse cycle with cold water, and then wash Hot/cold with Purex Free and Clear.  We then pop the inserts in the dryer and let the shells air dry.  After they are dry it takes about 15 minutes to stuff the diapers (which I usualy do while watching TV).  We do about 2 loads a week.

Total additional time commitment: (1 minute extra changing time x 10 / day) + [(10 minutes to wash / dry + 15 minutes to stuff) x 2 / week) = 2 hours / week.

2 hours may seem like a lot, but when you think you spend 2-3 minutes per diaper change anyway, you are already looking at 2.5-3 hours/week on diapers, and if feedings take 20 minutes x 8 times per day you are looking at 18 hours/week with that.  Lets face it, babies take time, and the 2 hours you spend on clothe diapers are not productive minutes you are wasting, but idle minutes.  Compare that to the teenage years where every soccer game requires a two hour commitment of prime evening time!

What about cost?

Cloth diapers can be expensive.  Fuzzi Bunz are around $18 apiece.  BUT… we buy our diapers from a diaper exchange site called Daiper Swappers.  (Be careful… these “mommies” are intense – it takes about a week’s learning curve to understand the forum.)  and get them for between $5-10.  Yes they are used, but they still have plenty of life left in them.  To get us started it took about a $220 investment.  However, when you consider we will be able to sell those back and purchase the next size, we will be able to recoup most of our money.  If you shop around and are patient you can get good deals and then actualy sell them back for a profit.  That is what our friend Michelle does.  So when you consider it, we will basically get our diapers for free.  Compare that to my sister in law who spends $100/month on diapers for her two boys.  Even if you buy new, you are saving money. [NOTE: Fuzzi Bunz come in multiple sizes as well as an adjustable model that allows you to stay in one size for the whole time your baby is in diapers.  According to their website, most babies only use two sizes: S and M.  There are 4+ size options on each diaper and Mikayla is still on the smallest setting]

Mikayla in a fresh Fuzzi Bunz

Mikayla in a fresh Fuzzi Bunz

I am not saying cloth diapers are for everyone, but after doing our research and going through the process for 2 months, we are totally satisfied.  With Beth breastfeeding and us using cloth diapers, our monthly costs for Mikayla are close to zero.  To end, here are some pointers we have learned so far to:

  • Get a dry pail for home use. We picked up a 5 gallon bucket and lid for less than 5 dollars at Lowes.
  • Have at least two wet bags for traveling (3-4 would be better).
  • Since we bought used, our micro terry inserts have a variety of thicknesses.  We put the thicker ones in the colored diapers and the thinner ones in the white diapers.  That way it is easy to tell which have great absorbency when using them overnight, or for a long car ride. [Update: We ended buying more “doubler” inserts — basically thin inserts that can be added when you need extra absorbency — and making all of our diaper thicker”]
  • Take the time to understand the various styles.  Fuzzi Bunz are not the only type, but after comparing different brands, it was obvious this was the right match for us. (others are cheaper, but require more work; others use velcro which is easier to use, but can wear out faster).
  • Be prepared to change diapers a bit more frequently because there are no chemicals to instantly dry the liquid.
  • While you could make it with 10-12 diapers, it is well worth the extra money to get 20-30.  Not only do you only have to do wash every 3 days or so, but it saves water because you can do larger loads.
  • We still use disposables on occasion.  We have been using them at night simply because we were given so many at showers.  It is also nice to have them when traveling, but using a wet bag is not difficult or messy at all.
  • We haven’t had to do this yet, but the word on the street is that you can get rid of pesky stains by letting the diapers sit out in the sun.
  • Finally, don’t knock ’em until you have tried ’em.