Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mammary Mayhem

I've always thought of boobs as funny, frivolous appendages. Sure, they are sexy when they are pushed up in a bra and nipples can be pretty cool too, but they always seem to get in the way and it costs a lot of money to keep the ta-tas securely fastened to your body.

Throughout my pregnancy my boobs have become a huge pain in the ass. It wasn't long before all of my bras were too small, so I had to venture out an get a few maternity bras. I ended up getting nursing bras to try and save some money since I would need them post-partum. The two bras I got have a little snap so all it takes is one click and voila! you have a boob in your face! In case you didn't know, most boobs do some crazy stuff during pregnancy--they grow in size (which of course my husband thought was awesome), your milk ducts start to form, the areolas grow and the nipples darken.

In my opinion pregnancy boobs look pretty weird, last night I told my hubby I had monkey boobs (he still doesn't understand what that means, but whatever).  Despite my disdain for my prego boobs, it's important to note that pregnancy boobs are preparing for a huge task: feeding your little one. Now, I know that not all women want to or are able to breastfeed and that is totally cool (there is a great piece on Offbeat Mama about one woman's struggle to breastfeed). To me, all things reproductive are about choice and I choose to breastfeed. The more I read about breastfeeding, the more fascinated I become with what I once saw as a silly, mostly sexual part of my body.

Some Super Cool Mammary Milk Facts*:
  • breast milk is tailored to the needs of human infants and contains over 100 ingredients not found in cow's milk and that can't be synthesized in a lab
  • the composition of breast milk changes to meet the baby's needs--it is different in the morning versus the afternoon and is also calorie controlled.  Milk at the beginning of a feeding is less caloric that the milk at the end of the feeding, which signals to the baby when to stop feeding.
  • because of the changing composition, breastfed babies are often less chubby than formula fed babies. (although I love a chubby baby with some cute leg rolls)
  • breastfed babies get a good dose of antibodies that help prevent infections such as urinary tract infections, colds and ear infections.
Again, despite these cool facts, some women choose not to breastfeed or simply are unable to despite their best efforts.  As Trista so eloquently put in her piece about coping with not being able to breastfeed "I had many moments where I felt extreme amounts of guilt, but then I learned that breastfeeding did not equal perfection — nor did it equal motherhood."  Whether or not we can or cannot, or choose or choose not to breastfeed, it is still quite amazing to learn about the ways our bodies almost instinctively do amazing things like produce calorie-controlled milk for our offspring.  Evolution is so cool.

Another reason women don't breastfeed is due to lack of support from their health care provider or the lack of follow-up care once a woman has left the hospital.  Or--women who have to return to work may not have the resources necessary to take breaks to pump, and don't have a private place to do the pumping .
This is where we can step in and advocate for women who choose to breastfeed: ask your Member of Congress to co-sponsor the Breastfeeding Promotion Act today. 

"The Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2011 (HR 2758) would dramatically help expand breastfeeding by giving all mothers who want to breastfeed unpaid time and private, clean spaces to express milk at work.  If passed, the bill would also protect breastfeeding women from being fired or discriminated against in the workplace.[3] As part of the Affordable Care Act, exempt workers (generally those paid hourly) now are provided this support at work but the new rules only cover approximately half of new mothers in the workforce.[4] 
We need uniform workplace policies to support all of the 56% of new mothers who are in the paid labor force.[5]  Without support in workplaces, breastfeeding rates drop significantly during the time when most women return to work.  While 3 out of 4 women in the U.S. breastfeed their infants at birth, only 13% are exclusively breastfeeding at six months as recommended by every major national and international medical authority.[6]  In fact, breastfeeding rates for employed mothers are 15% lower than among non-employed mothers.[7] "

So there's my two-cents on the very divisive issue of breastfeeding.  Like I said, I am all about women choosing to do it or not--and women can of course make better decisions when they are better informed and have little to no barriers.  I just hope that my funny monkey boobs will produce enough milk and that I am barrier free and able to breastfeed poppy when he/she comes into this world.

*breast milk facts taken from "What to Expect the First Year"

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thought plastic was harmless? Think again!

I'm sure you've seen "BPA" or "bisphenol A" in the news here and there over the past few years.  Sometime ago scientists found that BPA, which is traditionally used to make plastics, is an endocrine disruptor and linked to problems such as early puberty, hyperactivity, breast and prostate cancer and infertility. Since then, many companies have taken strides to produce BPA-free water bottles, plastic bowls and so on.  In 2010 Cananda became the first country to declare BPA a toxic substance and the EU banned BPA from baby bottles. 

Right now, we are awaiting for Caifornia Governor Jerry Brown to sign AB1319 which bans BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups.  An article in the San Francisco Chronicle debates whether this bill goes far enough--some hoped it would ban the use of BPA in infant food containers, but that piece got taken out of the legislation due to fears that it would prevent the bill from being passed.

When selecting bottles for my baby registry, I did have a good amount of luck finding pacifiers and bottles that are BPA-free. Also, the Environmental Working Group has a guide to buying safe bottles and fomula. However, mommy-to-be or not, I think we should all do what we can to limit our exposure to such a toxic chemical. 

Quick Facts on BPA (taken from the awesome Environmental Working Group):
  • An estimated 6 billion pounds of BPA are produced globally annually
  • BPAis fabricated into thousands of products including safety equipment, eyeglasses, computer and cell phone casings, and water and beverage bottles
  • BPA-based plastics break down readily, particularly when heated or washed with strong detergents
  • Trace BPA exposure has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and trigger a wide variety of disorders, including chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy.
  • You can find more facts here
A few ways to avoid BPA is to try to eat fresh foods and stay away from canned goods since all canned foods sold in the U.S. contain BPA in the can lining. Also, plastics marked with a #7 recycling symbol or that say "PC" for polycarbonate are plastics that you should avoid. If you can't avoid using a #7 plastic, then try not to microwave the plastic as it increases the chances of the bisphenol A leaching into your food.

We are at an interesting point politically with Republicans wanting to take away EPA authority on regulating our air and water to keep it clean and safe (among other things).  I worry that politicizing an issue like this will endanger ours and our childrens' livelihood. Obviously I am a die-hard liberal, but I honestly don't understand the reasoning behind conservatives wanting the government to halt environmental regulations that ultimately protect us.  I wish the federal government would take a stance similar to that of the EU and the state of California and ban BPA in infant products.  Obviously, our exposure to the toxic substance wouldn't go away completely but banning it from baby products is a great first step.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Domestic Project-An idea for wine corks

Drinking all that wine has finally paid off!  I had originally planned to collect enough wine corks to cover a wall in a room in the basement that will eventually be a wine cellar.  BUT, this week I was in a pinch.  I realized that the curtain hold backs I had bought just weren't looking the way I had envisioned.

I started walking around the house looking for something to tie the curtains in the center rather than hook them onto the holdbacks.  Then, I had a total Martha Stewart moment. Ok, maybe it wasn't that brilliant but this idea was FREE!

Anyways, like I said I was walking around the house when I looked at our dining room shelf and saw our big vases of wine corks. Bingo!

Here's what you need:
-10 to 12 wine corks per hold back
-a shoe lace or ribbon
-power drill
-drill-safe surface

It was really quite simple.  I just drilled a hold in each wine cork and strung them along a shoe lace and tied it around the curtain. Like this:

It's amazing how I can be so satisfied from such a simple little crafty project.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Car Safety

Before you read this post, I must warn that this is a sad topic. One of my worst fears is leaving my (future) baby in the car during the hot summer months--probably because it can happen to anyone, especially busy parents (and what parent isn't busy?) You see it on the news quite a bit, but each time it doesn't get any less unnerving to hear about.  Recently, the Washington Post had an article about a woman who unknowingly left her son in a hot car for seven hours.  To complicate things, the woman had left her son in a car before but was saved by a call from the daycare.  The prosecutor is charging her with child neglect AND felony murder, to make a case out of her to other parents.

I can only imagine how such a tragedy rips a family apart.  If I were to answer the article titled "A baby is dead. Was it a crime?", I would say absolutely. But when it comes time to offer judgement and punishment, I am lost.  In my mind, the sheer loss of your own child due to your own absent-minded neglect is punishment enough and so is the grief and ostracism your family will face.

Rather than prosecute a parent on felony murder charges in order to make an example out of him/her, perhaps we can strive to find other ways to prevent another tragedy from happening.

According to Kids and Cars, on average 38 children die each year due to heat-related deaths from being left in hot vehicles. Kids and Cars also has some good safety tips to help avoid leaving a infant or child unattended in a car:

  • Put something you'll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case, etc., on the floor board in the back seat.
  • Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind. This will soon become a habit. We call this the "Look Before You Lock" campaign.
  • Keep a large stuffed animal in the child's car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It's a visual reminder that anytime the stuffed animal is up front you know the child is in the back seat in a child safety seat.
  • Make arrangements with your child’s day care center or babysitter that you will always call if your child will not be there on a particular day as scheduled.
In addition to these tips that basically modify our own behaviors, I've heard rumblings about car and car seat companies trying to develop alarms to alert you to a child left behind in a car.

A few items like the Halo Baby Seat Safety System and Baby Alert-Child Minder Smart Clip System popped up in my research but the Halo item doesn't appear to be on the market yet and I can't find many reliable reviews for the Baby Alert item.  Does anyone have resources or suggestions for other places to look for infant seat safety product such as these?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Stubborn Feminist Relinquishes Control-The FLOOD

Growing up, I was told I could do anything a boy could do.  I was also told that I will go to college, and have my own career so that I would never have to rely on a man. Done. Even though they didn't realize it, my family raised me to be a strong feminist woman, and I am so thankful for that.

I like to think that I've lived my life like the independent woman my mom and grandmother wanted me to be.  And what's better is that even though I am now married, my spouse has never been threatened by my independence and always encourages me to do what I want.  He knows I can use a hammer or drill and that I can lift heavy objects, etc. He never talks down to me or minimizes my activist causes or professional decisions. Hell, I shoot guns and go fishing and he doesn't and is in no way emasculated by it. He was raised by a feminist woman--and it shows.

Unfortunately, this week I had to ignore my own desire to be independent and had to rely heavily on my hubby.

Hubby and I have been homeowners for a month and 9 days, but it feels like a lifetime--and not in a good way.  Two days ago, while the painters were at our home painting the house interior on the first level, our plumbing backed up.  This resulted in blueish-green water (from the painters rinsing their brushes in the kitchen sink) coming up through the basement showers and flooding over half of the basement.

Our basement is not a scary and dark place. It is open and bright and has had two carpeted guest rooms each with their own bathroom, an office with wood flooring, a tiled laundry room and a storage room.  The two bedrooms and the office were soaked with sewer water and we found out that the flooring and baseboards in those rooms had to be completely ripped out. Fun. So we had restoration people come in and do the dirty work of ripping out the flooring and they placed those huge industrial fans everywhere to help dry up the water. Oh--did I mention the bonus?! Our insurance doesn't cover flooding due to a sewer backup. We still had to wait on the plumbers but the good news was that the flooding had stopped and everything was getting dried up.

The next day while we were waiting for the plumbers to arrive to hydrojet the pipes, i noticed water near the steps leading to the basement.  I went down to investigate but the bathrooms were not the source this time.  We've had a ton of rain this past week, and water was coming into the storage room through the back basement door. Then the plumbers showed up. After doing some investigating, the found that our second sump pump was never connected to outside of the house SO it was pumping water back INTO OUR HOUSE! Total nightmare. Plus, the rain water was triple what the sewer water was.  Anyways, after hours with the plumbers and two days of stress our problems are now mostly fixed.

What I didn't realize was how labor-intensive this disaster would be. Trekking up and down the stairs, moving boxes, shelves, furniture, etc.  I realized early into the ordeal that because of my belly I just can't do what I used to physically.  Bending over to get something off the floor is hard, not to mention painful because of my back. I also get tired a lot quicker than I used to. This realization sucked.  It's not fair that my hubby has to do all of the back-breaking work to get this mess cleaned up!  Just because I have a vagina doesn't mean I am disabled! I can do anything he can do!

Well--I had to step over my pride and relinquish control.  I did as much as I could of the "small" things and hubby did the heavy lifting and took care of everything else. I made him a list of the things that needed to be done (his parents get in town today, so I wanted our main floor to at least look presentable) since I was too exhausted to do them. And you know what? It'll all be ok.  Yes, we are exhausted and yes, my pride is a little wounded but we are alive and well.

I guess the moral to the story is that even though I am physically limited right now because I am pregnant, it doesn't mean I am any less feminist.  I can STILL do anything a man can do and more--I get to bring a little person into this world! I just need to realize that it's ok to take it easy and focus on my own health. Thank goodness I've got an amazing feminist husband to back me up when I need him.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Second Trimester Reflections

Wow, people weren't joking when they told me the second trimester would be a thousand times better! Around week 14 I finally started to eat again and the nausea finally left.

Other awesome things about the second trimester:
  • I got my energy back! I still take naps here and there, but my sleepiness is nothing like it was week 5 through 13. During those weeks I felt like a zombie--it's amazing what exhaustion will do to your brain and your social life.
  • Food is my friend again. I'm eating, finally!  And I don't mean just saltines and gingerale. I am eating real, adult-sized meals complete with an iced tea.
  • I no longer detest chocolate.  This miracle happend around week 18 and I couldn't be happier.  Although the break-up was hard, and feelings got hurt, Godiva and I are back together!
  • No more vomitting!
  • I feel productive.  I'm actually getting things done at work and at home and don't have to worry about hubby doing all the cooking, cleaning, dog walking, etc.  I am once again an active participant in my house and office.
  • Movement down below.  Feeling little Poppy move has got to be the coolest thing. Ever. At first the movements were sporadic but now he/she moves constantly!  Another cool thing is feeling when Poppy has hiccups, it's really quite amazing.
  • Getting more maternity clothes.  I finally found some cute maternity dresses and shirts to wear that don't cost a trillion dollars like the garments at Pea in the Pod.  $30 maternity jeans--score!
And, although the list is small, I need to list the not-so-awesome things about the second trimester:
  • Indigestion.  I've never really had indigestion before but, wow, talk about miserable! I now keep a bottle of Tums on my nightstand and in my desk drawer.
  • Less sleep. I get up to pee about 5 times a night now. Between that and the baby kicking me constantly sleep kinda sucks right now.  But I try to think that this is just to prepare for life with a newborn.
  • I'm always hungry. Seriously, I never feel satisfied. I just had a garden burger, an apple, and a plum  and I am still starving.  It's ridiculous.
So that about sums up trimester number two! Now I'm in the home stretch :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Domestic Project-Old Desk Face Lift

So this post isn't feminist in nature or about being pregnant, BUT I feel its post-worthy. Who doesn't like a good household project?!

Ever since we bought our house a month ago I've had lots of projects to keep me busy.  Several weeks ago my husband and I spotted a desk at Pottery Barn that we both REALLY wanted to get but it costs $900, naturally.  A few weeks later I saw that someone put a post up on FreeCycle giving away an old wooden desk.  I checked out the picture and decided that with a little hard work and some paint that I could transform it into a desk that both my husband and I love.

So, here's the dream desk:

Here's the desk we got for FREE on FreeCycle:
Here's the free desk, transformed:
Pretty cool, huh! Obviously, it's not as pretty as the Pottery Barn one but in the end it only cost us about $100 bucks.  Here's what I did:

1. 4 large sheets of sand paper, fine
2. 1 pint of Behr low-VOC paint and primer in one in white
3. 2 paint brushes--one about 2 inches wide and the other an inch wide for the smaller areas
4. 6 new drawer handles
5. 1 large drop cloth to protect the floors
6. 1 to 2 safety masks to protect yourself from inhaling the dust and paint particles from sanding as well as the paint fumes.

Free desk, as we will call it, is in pretty good condition. It is made of solid wood and is the perfect size for our study.  The downside of course is that it was sponge-painted a gross grey color and the top of the desk had at one point been painted black and where the grey paint was chipping there were huge areas of this black paint coming through.

Before I started sanding my hubby took the old handles off of the desk.  Unfortunately, one of the rusty old screws cut his finger so in the midst of the desk project he had to go get a tetanus shot.  Poor guy. Anyways, back to the sanding.  My goal wasn't to strip the old paint completely off the desk--that would have taken days--but instead I wanted to make sure that the loose paint was sanded off and that the surfaces of the desk were smooth.  Total sanding time: around 4 hours.  I sanded it all by hand and in hindsight wish I would have gotten an electric sander.  My hands, wrists and forearms are still sore from all of the sanding and I've had 48 hours to recover!

Before I began to paint, I vacuumed up the piles of paint/sanding dust that surrounded the desk on the drop cloth.  Then I took a damp cloth and wiped down every inch of the desk to capture any remaining dust.  This is a very important step because the last thing you want is the gross dust to start sticking to your freshly applied wet paint. It is important to have a very clean surface before painting.

Painting was a piece of cake! To get this antiqued look I did the following:
I applied a layer of paint and moved on to another section.  Once section two was done with a layer of paint, I went back to the first section and took a large sponge and drug it across the surface in a straight line, applying medium pressure to the sponge. Be sure to pay attention to the direction you are dragging the sponge. For the top of the desk, I followed the pattern of the wood and went horizontal.  For the drawers I went horizontal and the legs I went vertical.  Once the painted and sponged section was 80% dry, I went back over and dry-brushed the surfaces to add a little more character. Total painting time: 2 hours.

Next, I had hubby install the new handles and voila!  Our desk is complete :)
I had a very hard time picking out the handles.  I originally thought I wanted to go for something ornate and feminine but ended up going with a more utilitarian piece of hardware.  The good news is that if I change my mind in a few years, it's easy to grab new handles and install them!
More domestic projects to come!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

DIY Green Products

As I mentioned back in May in my post "Naked Toes" I'm passionate about doing everything I can to try to limit the chemicals my family and I are exposed to. Over the past 8 months I have worked hard to find products that do not contain pthalates, carcinogens, parabens, and other harsh chemicals.  Finding some things was easier than others.  Mascara: piece of cake. Antiperspirant: still searching.  Sure, I have found plenty of products that are made of safe chemicals but it's been hard to find ones that are comparable to the products that do not even come close to being made of safe chemicals.  I've gone through lots, and I mean LOTS of different brands of safe shampoo and conditioner and I am still searching for the perfect one. Changing my entire personal care collection is a work in progress.

Something that I have started to really enjoy is making my own products.  It's pretty funny--when it comes to cooking and baking I have zero patience.  I'm the type of gal that likes to ignore recipes (i never follow exact measurements, to my own demise of course) and just throw random things in a skillet and see what happens.  But for some reason, I'm really getting into making my own personal care items as well as home-cleaning solutions. 

My latest ventures:

Body Scrub: This one is a piece of cake (and if you want it can smell like one too!) What you'll need:
1) A Container--I save jars from jams, sauces, etc. and reuse them for my products
2) Oil--preferably olive oil, almond oil, or jojoba oil but you can use a mixture instead of just sticking to one. Fill your jar about 70% full of the oil.
3) Sugar--add sugar to the oil until the sugar is saturated in the oil, but with no oil sitting on top of the sugar. It should blend nicely.
4) Essential oil (if you prefer a scented scrub)--lavender is nice and calming, peppermint is nice and revitalizing and vanilla just smells good. Add 3 to 6 drops of your preferred essential oil into the base oil before you add the sugar. Voila! You have your very own body scrub!  AND, it's cheaper than any sugar scrub you will find in a store.

Face Wash: I made my very own face wash the other night and it was so easy. I got the recipe off of Whole Living -the magazine, not sure if it is their website though. What you'll need:
1) a container, preferably something with a pump.
2) Castor oil.  fill your container with about 75% Castor oil.
3) the remaining 25% can be either olive oil, jojoba oil, grape seed oil or almond oil.  Since the weather is warm, i skipped the olive oil since it is heavier and did 20% grape seed oil and 5% jojoba oil.
4) peppermint essential oil--about 3 to 5 drops to add an invigorating scent!

Here's the gist behind facial cleansing oils: many face washes on the market strip our skin of its natural sebum which causes our skin to produce even more oil and can cause acne.  Oil attracts oil, and cleansing oils attract oil, dirt and makeup but maintains a healthy skin balance--not to mention its a great moisturizer!  There are many cleansing oils on the market but I didn't feel like gallivanting through the mall to track them down so I decided to make my own.  Many of the in-store cleansing oils are made to be rinsed off with water.  This particular recipe works a little differently.  First, you massage the oil, about 2 pumps worth, onto your skin. Then take a hot wash cloth and lay it on your face until it cools, then wipe off the excess oil.  The heat from the wash cloth helps to open your pores and you'll feel like you got a mini-facial when you are done!

All-Purpose Household Cleaner: Vinegar is an amazing disinfectant and is the primary ingredient in this easy cleaner. What you'll need:
1) a container, preferably with a spray nozzle.
2) distilled white vinegar.  fill your container about 50% full
3) lemon juice, fill about 10%
4) water, fill up to the rim
5) lavender essential oil, a few drops to help with the smell.
This easy-to-make concoction kills germs, is great on glass surfaces and the vinegar smell lasts for just a minute or so.  Lavender helps with the smell of course but it is not necessary.
This cleaner is particularly great because it is ridiculously safe to use around your house and doesn't come with any harsh fumes.

I haven't finished reading it yet, but The Green Beauty Guide has been a great resource for greening my cosmetics and personal care products. It also has great do-it-yourself recipes for cleansers, etc.

There are also plenty of green-cleaning books on the market and I encourage you to browse through one to get some ideas on diy household cleaners.

Any suggestions for what I should make next?