Baby food purees are a racket. Jenrose’s guide to babies and eating.

This comes up all the time, so I’m putting it here so I don’t have to keep typing it. The questions are, “When should we start solids?” and “What should we use as first foods?” and “Why not wait longer than 6 months to start (or conversely, why wait past 4 months to start solids?)

There’s quite a bit of research (and a lot of parental experience with grabby babies) that says there is a “sweet spot” around six months for starting experimenting with solids. Babies started later than six months or earlier than four statistically speaking tend to have more allergies and reactions. Too early and the gut is still quite permeable and immune reactions can be triggered, too much later and they don’t get the small exposures that teach the immune system to ignore food as not-a-problem. Theoretically.

But this is not going to be a line by line cited official paper, this is how I feed my kids, and an approach to eating for babies that I think makes a lot of sense. I’ve been parenting for 21 years,  have three children of vastly varying dietary foibles, allergies, sensitivities and pickiness, age 3, almost 10 and 21 1/2 at this writing, and have a zillion food issues so tend to read constantly on the subject. This is drawn from many sources, so if the wording appears familiar, it’s because I burned it into my brain at some point and don’t remember where I got it. I’m not looking up a darned thing for this right now, it’s mostly “what I tell people when they ask about it online”. (more…)

This isn’t about vaccination

Not really. It’s not about vaccination. Or welfare. Or religion. Or politics. It’s not about circumcision or abortion or gay marriage or Fox news or Florida or gun activists or Black people or White people or people who see the world differently or people who learn differently or any of the things that anyone, anywhere says are “ruining everything” or “causing all the problems”.

This, this, my friends, is about manners.

Here’s the thing about almost every SINGLE thing people rant about on the internet. At the heart of it, somewhere, someone’s story is there. It may not be a “beautiful” story. It may not be a “correct” story, but it’s their story. It’s personal. And when things are personal, people get hurt by the collective volume.

People have reasons for doing what they do, believing what they believe, knowing what they know, whether it is “correct” or not.

We walk a fine line, calling out the problems we see, between “shedding light on injustice” and blinding people.

It is too, too easy to forget that being right at all costs may have a higher cost than intended. And that insisting on “being right” may well guarantee that you will never, ever, EVER actually be able to persuade anyone who you feel is “wrong” of anything.

Don’t use the “Oh, but not YOU,” argument. That’s just insulting, just like saying, “No offense, but…” If you have to make that excuse, you should probably stop a minute and reconsider.

My eldest child’s school, shortly before we started there, had an issue with a child being bullied for having gay parents. The school had a long community discussion about an appropriate way to say, “This is not okay.”

They thought  about expanding the existing “No harassment based on race, religion or gender” to include “sexual orientation, disability” and a host of other things. Then someone very wise said, “Why are we doing it this way? How about we just say, “No harassment.” Because really, when, ever, is it okay to harass anyone?”

It eliminates the, “Well, but that doesn’t cover…. ” argument. Yes, I know we need to call attention to specific types of harassment because people just don’t think… but from a policy perspective, this takes the broad view, the, dare I say it, “constitutional” view, the “word it simply, broadly, and in a way that future understanding can expand the definition as needed.”

So when we started at this school, their policy just said, “No harassment.” Period. And I concur. Don’t treat people that way. Teach your kids not to treat people that way. That’s just good manners.

Now besides manners, this is also about effectiveness. About understanding. And about communication.

I grew up the daughter of a computer programmer and an attorney. To say that I was raised with the idea that logic and right and wrong are quantifiable and knowable is kind of an understatement. I spent most of my childhood and early adulthood wanting and needing to be right. The arguments I got into and my frustration at their illogic were epic. I was a lonely kid. And at the time, persuaded very few people.

The concept of active listening dropped into my life like a bombshell in my early 20’s.  I remember arguing a point of maternal fetal medicine with a nurse during my doula training, and her stopping me and saying, “The fact that you are still arguing with me means you are not listening to me.”

This is what most people miss. If you are shouting, you aren’t hearing… but if you are shouting, probably no one else is really listening to you either.

I feel strongly about a lot of topics. But mostly it boils down to manners, and understanding that people are people, and that we are all in this together and we need to start acting like it. And that doesn’t mean all thinking or being or doing the same things, it means understanding that we never, ever will and finding ways to live with each other in peace anyway.

So the next time, and every time, you are about to post or repost or share or retweet or otherwise propagate something in this incredibly diverse and divisive digital world (that is, after all, in the real world and mostly generated by real actual human beings and is about real actual stories that happen to people)… please, stop a moment. Look at it. Maybe it makes you laugh, or snort, or nod your head.

But is it doing so by putting someone down? By reducing them from real, mistake-making, struggling human beings to caricatures and straw men? If you share it, will it hurt someone you care about? Or someone they care about? Or someone you’ve never met at all but who is struggling that much harder because people find their lives funny or enraging?

If so, then please ask, “Will sharing this actually improve a situation that needs improving, or convince someone who was wavering, or improve the world?”

Or will it just get the choir nodding in the background and further plug your ears to the realities behind the situation at hand? Will it plug the ears of the people whose minds you most dearly want to change?

Maybe you don’t care. I want to think you probably do. But if your goal is merely to be “right” or to look right or to appear smarter or to align yourself with the people you respect… please, stop. Think. Go here and read for a while, it’s useful. Look at your face to the world. Stop harassing people, and start listening.

We are a rich tapestry of stories and lives and perspectives and reasons and backgrounds. The world is made more complete by the variety and complexity of us. More interesting. In the long run, it is humanity’s variety that creates our ability to persevere. Value the fact that everyone doesn’t think like you, or me, or that guy over there. We would learn nothing if everyone understood the world in the exact same way. And we are, none of us, perfect.

I get the urge to yell. I’m a mom and live in a family and it’s made up of human beings and fur beings and we’re all of us fallible, even me. But yelling creates silence, or it creates more yelling, or it creates hurt. There’s not really much middle ground here. And it’s not very useful in the long run at fixing, well, anything.

Stop yelling. Please.

Start understanding.

To the mom of an autistic kindergartener.

Screw percentiles. Screw “Developmental age”. Feck the “he’ll never” or the “she can’t” and to HELL with “you’ll just have to accept”.

The most hopeful thing anyone ever said to me when my daughter was in kindergarten, in Life Skills, intelligence not testable, was “most of the kids in this class learn to read.” We discovered by accident a year later that if the text was big enough, she could read quite well. Silently.

Fuck test results. Love your son. Presume competence. Eliminate barriers. We’ve got your back.

On finding out the gender

Snipped  from a conversation about finding out the gender in utero.
Today, my 3 year old son insisted on wearing a skirt all day. Amusingly, his black, heavy shoes are handmedowns from his 9 year old sister, who needed them for orthotic reasons (they were her shoes when she was 7 or 8. He’s 3.) The skirt he picked out at Costco for himself. The fish shirt is his FAVORITE. The jacket is supposedly “girls” from the tags.
My 21 year old daughter is now using they/them pronouns, has hair almost as short as my son’s (was shorter), and rarely wears anything remotely feminine. I’m over the whole gender binary thing. When people say boy and girl, these words, they do not mean what people think they mean.
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I guess my point is that one might find out in utero what sort of bits and bobs a kid has, but it will give absolutely not one iota of information about the person they will become. Not a thing. Our abstract gender notions are so far off from the reality of who kids are, that it’s pretty meaningless, even if they are cisgendered in the long run, what it means to be “boy” and what it means to be “girl” are so wide and overlapping that I just don’t see the point. It’s like our abstract notions of what it means to be one race or another. The variations within any one race are greater than the differences between races, in almost every marker. The only things an ultrasound can really say (and even then it’s not infallible) is whether a child has a penis or a vagina. Heck, with transgender men giving birth, and transgender women banking sperm to use later, and lots of people not actually having kids at all, it doesn’t even tell you if they’ll someday be a mother or a father.
I get the whole “loss of the idealized baby” grief. I had that in spades when my middle was diagnosed with a chromosome difference that completely blew out of the water all my expectations about parenting, pretty much from the moment she was born and every moment after. I’m not saying it’s wrong to be sad or glad or whatever. Feelings are feelings. They’re not wrong or right. If you’re sad, you’re sad. If you’re delighted, you’re delighted.
But realistically, even if you know, and you “get what you want”… you don’t know, and won’t know and maybe even can’t know. I have a friend who transitioned at 46 years old. And know kids who are transitioning as young as five years old. All that little hamburger or hotdog on the ultrasound will tell someone is whether their kid has an innie or an outie, for the moment. It says nothing about what they will like, what they’ll want to play with, who they will be, who they will love, or how they’ll want to dress. It doesn’t tell you whether they’ll be energetic or quiet or bookish or athletic or good at math or amazing with colors or struggle endlessly or float through effortlessly or whether they’ll look good in pink or whether they’ll be delighted at spinning in a twirly skirt until they tumble to the ground.
I’ve been thinking a lot about gender, about neurodiversity, about social expectations of children and cultural notions of what it means to be male, to be female. I’ve never felt like there was anything inherently wrong with having female bits (although I was thrilled to no longer have a uterus once I was done using it for babies), but I’ve never in my life been much good at “being a girly girl” as our society seems to define it. And as I see a lot of young people struggling with notions of gender, my feeling that the whole binary thing is just so much horse pocky gets stronger and stronger. There’s nothing wrong with my gender. There’s nothing wrong with my skirt-loving son or my short haired daughters. Society, on the other hand, is really fucked up.
I put Shiny in pink sometimes, and she wears dresses sometimes, because they’re colorful, she looks good in pink, and the clothes are cute. Miles gets more pants and shirts… but often throws a skirt on top if he has his druthers. Handmedowns provide him with an endless supply of pink jammies and twirly skirts and dresses. He honestly dresses almost exactly the same as K did, 18 years ago, with almost an identical frequency of skirts, or pants, or sometimes both. Which just goes to show you exactly how much influence a twirly 3 year old’s penchant for circle skirts and tulle has on their identity as an adult. We just don’t know, and it just doesn’t matter all that much. Like I’m going to love them one iota less?
My main struggles are editorial and habitual… I was raised a fairly strict grammarian, and singular they in reference to a known person just makes me twitchy. Not morally, not intellectually… grammatically. And I spent 21 years thinking of K as “she”, and it’s a brain plasticity failure that I haven’t made the leap easily.
But that’s my problem, not my kid’s. I may stumble over pronouns, but I stumble not at all on loving them with my whole heart.


Because I’ve typed this out for two or three people in the past 24 hours plus shared it with someone in person, here’s what you need to know about some of the big causes of coughs.

1. Pertussis: ANY cough which goes on for more than 3-4 weeks is suspicious for pertussis. Moreso if it involves sudden horrible bouts of coughing in someone who otherwise feels fine, especially a couple weeks after a “cold”.

What I wrote in 2004 when I had pertussis:

(This was a year where they claimed there were 25,000 cases reported, but we suspect there were between 10 and 150 actual cases for every one that got officially recognized by the health departments/CDRC.)

2. Asthma: Chronic low grade coughs not really related to illness (sometimes illness comes because the lungs are already compromised, instead of the other way around), especially in young people, are often related to asthma. There are lots of medications for asthma, but for non-life-threatening asthma that hangs around making people cough, the place to start is magnesium. Read more about it here:

Magnesium for asthma: is a brief, informal summary. The short of it? Try magnesium if you have asthma, it won’t hurt and might get you off of asthma meds if it works.

3. If you have figured out the underlying issue causing a cough (for example, virus, bacteria, asthma, whatever) you’ll want to find ways of easing it.

My lowest tech approach starts here, with cocoa, honey, and cherry juice. All of which have actual research and scientific rationale, plus they help. They really help.

Antibiotics can help if a cough is caused by a bacteria AND the problem is bacteria actively producing things which irritate the lungs. They cannot help viruses and while they will shorten the contagious period for pertussis, see the above article for why they’re not a cure-all.

Reflux can cause a chronic cough–treatments vary, hubby takes the generic of prilosec.

Robitussin/Mucinex both are supposed to help thin the secretions. Spicy foods, hot liquids and merely drinking a lot of water can do as well for most people. Skip the drug and go for the hot foods (Thai soups are a family favorite) and chicken soup for a similar effect. Take the mucinex if you can’t deal with soup or spice.

Plain ol’ mentholyptus cough drops can be a big help short term. They also help nausea for some people. Essential oil preparations may help.

For children, a barking cough at night is often croup. First step is to take your phone and your child outside into the cool night air, and do your best to cheer them up. If that doesn’t help their breathing quickly, or they start getting pale or turning blue, call 911 immediately. For kids prone to croup, talk to your doctor about keeping a supply of steroids, a nebulizer and if necessary, oxygen and an oximeter on hand. When Shiny was at her worst with croup, we went from going to the ER every month or two, to almost no ER visits at all, because with the steroids on hand I could just treat her when the telltale symptoms appeared. It never got bad enough to use the oxygen at home. The difference between a croup cough and pertussis cough is that croup cough starts with the barky whoopy cough and they don’t get much of a break–it is a short illness, albeit terrifying. With pertussis, the cough gets worse over the course of weeks, and a kid may appear “fine” in between turning blue coughing. The fever tends to be higher with a viral croup as well. Croup hits like a ton of bricks and is done, pertussis sits around throwing bricks at you and mocking you for three solid months. With croup, keeping a child calm and happy and giving them cool air to breath is the fastest way to stop the immediate problem, but it often gets bad again when you go inside, so it is worth treating medically for most parents (vs. sitting in the cold all night.) Steroids work within hours to bring the breathing under control, and a single d0se may work for 3 days, by which time the body has usually fought off the underlying problem.  Epinephrine or albuterol will open the passages immediately, the two together take a bout of croup from potentially deadly to merely annoying within a very short time.

There are many, many causes of cough–I’m only covering the ones that seem to come up all the time for my circle of friends.

Rule of thumb is if the cough is productive and the chest is congested, work harder on thinning the secretions and reducing inflammation than on suppressing the cough. Suppressing the cough at night should be done cautiously, and with the least means possible. Cocoa is good because it does not eliminate the ability to cough, it just gives you more control, which means you can sleep longer.

If the cough is not productive, suppress all you want. Start with cocoa and cherry, consider basic cough drops, I generally skip dextromethorphan (the “DM” of Robitussin DM) but I do like Benzonatate, which has the side effect of actually relieving some of the chest pain. Opiates (codeine and others) can be effective but have a LOT of potential side effects (headache, constipation) that make them particularly not fun.

Teaching consent

Someone recently posted for discussion an idea they’d heard (not agreed with) that “Guys are the gas and girls are the brakes”. This was an infuriating concept on pretty much every level, but got me to thinking about the messages we send kids and what we need to teach them. Because in my experience, a HUGE percentage of rapes are as much a result of poor training and lack of consideration as actual malice or active intent.

Messages like “Guys are the gas”, or “If she doesn’t say no, she means yes” actually train guys to rape. It is entirely possible for a sexual encounter to seem like “no big deal” from one side and “soul destroying devastation” from the other, and when that is the case, ultimately we have to point at training. I have, in my own personal experience, known men who raped without being aware until after the fact that it was rape. Who once informed of the issue, corrected their behavior and expectations. Those are training issues. And we can fix them.

There has been a lot of talk recently about a relatively new concept… “Yes means yes”. Training kids that the default is “respect boundaries until invited in” is essential, fundamental to changing the current paradigm. How does that look?

I’ve started with my son while he is still a toddler. He’s not even 3, is still breastfeeding, and I’m setting limits with him about grabbing and touching. He has to ask if he can nurse. If I say no, he doesn’t get to grab. I don’t put up with him casually grabbing my boobs anymore at all, or with him getting aggressive with me.

We have to start that young. We have to teach little kids that hurting people we like is never okay. Simply insisting on manners can go a long way toward teaching mutual respect. Teaching those manners often requires demonstrating them. My husband and I spend a couple weeks saying to each other, “May I please be excused?” at the dinner table, because that was what reminded my son to ask. Things he says, “Gimme” for are rarely gotten. When he says “Please, may I” he usually gets what he wants if it is reasonable.  I am often startled by how few children actually ask for things rather than demanding.

But most important, I think, is teaching simple self control. Delayed gratification. Teaching kids to think forward about consequences. It is not impossible. But the teaching never stops. I spend hours talking to the 21 year olds in my life about boundaries and limits and ways of handling the tricky situations they find themselves in.

In a lot of ways I’m very glad that I was born female, because I suspect that with the kind of training boys and girls got when I was a kid, I probably would have ended up raping someone without even understanding it as a young adult.

We teach kids a lot about “no means no”, but when you factor in the “freeze” response to “fight or flight”, the fact of the matter is that someone has to be able to communicate in order to say no, someone who is scared or drugged may not be able to do that. It has to be, it MUST be, “Yes means yes, No means no, Stop means stop, and silence is not consent.”

We have to teach kids to separate fantasy from reality. We see so many “sexy” scenes on television where an aggressive kiss with fighting back becomes willing participation…but in reality, we can’t risk that. The freeze response creates relaxation, and that relaxation could easily be confused for “lack of rejection”. It is possible to have fantasies of being overpowered, while absolutely never wanting that in real life, and we have to teach our kids about the difference. I can love reading science fiction and reading about space flight and not actually ever want to sit on the rocket ship, you know? I can adore stories about medieval cultures without ever wanting to live in a real one. I can enjoy watching a drama on television without ever wanting my life to be that dramatic.

is a good starting point for understanding why “No means no” is never enough.

First pass at a public comment for the new baby sling regulations.

I have been a babywearing educator and advocate for 20+ years, since not long after my first child was born. Our first sling was a stretchy wrap. Our second, a pouch. I spent 5 minutes looking at the pouch, went to my sewing machine, and converted my wrap to several pouches, and used those to carry my then-toddler for months. So you could say I “designed” my first carrier just over 20 years ago. A few months later, a doula client of mine said she’d dreamed of turning a bed sheet into a sling by tying the corners–I blinked at her, said, “Not like that” and a few minutes later we’d fashioned a “hammock style” (to use the language of this proposed regulation) sling out of a queen-sized bedsheet folded, and then knotted at her shoulder. She cried, because it meant she could make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, now having two hands free–with a fussy infant, she’d been subsisting on ramen noodles for weeks because she could make them one-handed.

I say this to demonstrate the utter impossibility of any regulation or rule ever eliminating babywearing, as some have suggested, and also the difficulty of trying to micromanage micro-mini-cottage-type businesses. If a woman can make a baby carrier out of a sheet with no advanced training, no internet (this was 1994) and no babywearing community supporting her, you will always, always have people sewing for friends and family and neighbors.

A few months later, at a Midwifery Today conference, a “tricks of the trade” circle at which many midwives from around the world were in attendance taught a couple hundred midwives that a similar bedsheet could be used as a warm climate back carrier (obi-style wrap), a cold-climate back carrier (Inuit summer style), a front “pack” (two shoulder rebozo front carry with no knots), a back torso carrier (think kanga-style)… this was a bedsheet older than I was, thin, worn, pilled, probably poly cotton, washed hundreds of times. And still functional.

It takes a lot for a fabric to be truly unsuitable for babywearing. I have seen it. I’ve made carriers that ended up in the garbage a few minutes later because my own quick test with a doll said that they would not hold up a feather, let alone a baby. One manufacturer sent me a carrier which had one layer of twill on one side and one layer of silk on the other…. but it was a mei tai, so all the stress went on the shoulder strap seam, which failed in the middle of putting my child on my back. I’ve seen ring slings with big rings and thin, slippery fabric.

But the worst carriers I’ve seen, the ones that I would dub completely unsafe from the start, were put out by large corporations. Far from the relatively unstructured ring slings that are most common today, they actually gave directions and harnessed children into positions which were inherently unsafe, and prone to positional airway issues. The Infantino Slingrider debacle never should have been allowed to go on as long as it did. We were warning people against those carriers for years before they were recalled, to the point of going up to people in grocery stores and begging them to use something else. I started trading people for something in my stash just to get the dang things out of the used/resale market, and took to buying every one I found there. We can’t dismiss it as impossible for a design or fabric to be faulty–they clearly can.

We have come incredibly far in the babywearing community. With my first child, I had no clue what was out there, and thought I just “needed a snuggli or something”… my midwife directed me to a stretchy wrap, Mothering Magazine to a pouch. By the time my second child was born in 2005, there had been an explosion in the number and types of baby carriers on the market. From maybe a dozen or two, to hundreds, in a little over a decade. By the time my third child was born in 2012, taking to other pregnant moms, it wasn’t a question of whether people were going to wear “those sling things”, but , “Which stretchy wrap are you going to get? I can’t decide whether to get my husband an Ergo or a Boba or a Beco.”

We have managed tremendous feats of education of the general public around the whole idea of babywearing, and around babywearing safely. But there is also room for colossal failure. When longtime babywearing educators promote cutting the bottoms off of t-shirts and using them as a Ktan-style carrier, we have a problem. Many people might be able to make something like that work…but there are so many potential failure points that it is terrifying to contemplate. The price of failure is so high…

There has to be some middle ground. I’ve always been opposed to certification, but maybe we need an option for manufacturers to get certified in making sound fabric choices, in understanding the mechanics and safety considerations. Even a $300 or $500 course would be more manageable and would not eliminate the possibility of bespoke/semibespoke carriers.

A guide for my daughter, on her “emboozeling”.

I’ve now been a mother for 21 years. My daughter requested to try a fair number of drinks for her birthday, and so we had something of a “tasting menu” after dinner, which we dubbed her “emboozeling”, with a variety of cocktails and sips and smells of a variety of other things. She had maybe the equivalent of a drink and a half over the course of the evening (tasting at least 8 different drinks), and then came home and made herself a rum and coke float.

She has been plied with much advice over the past few days. I’m putting it here so that it is in one place.

1. Understand the size of an actual serving of alcohol, and be aware that drinks vary wildly in their alcohol content.  Or as my aunt says, “Stick with beer or wine or straight spirits unless you can watch the bartender.” My cousin amends, “Or make the drink yourself.” Object lesson: a “California Libre” (rum, coke, and lemon slice) has half a serving of alcohol the way my husband makes it. A Manhattan has two and a half servings. And some cocktails have as many as five shots in them. That’s one “drink” that is actually five servings of booze at once.

There are two main categories of things people do with hard liquor… some are “sipping” drinks that you keep in hand for a while so that people don’t keep offering you booze faster than you want to drink it. And others have a ton of alcohol so that you get as smashed as possible as quickly as possible. You cannot tell which is which just by tasting them.

The shorthand is that a shot (1-1.5 oz) of hard liquor is a serving.  But hard liquor can vary from 35% to 75% alcohol (not counting everclear types), so this is a rough guide. Know what you’re drinking. 5 oz of wine is considered one serving, but wine also can vary from 6% to 16% alcohol, give or take. We’ve seen firsthand what happens when someone used to 7% wine suddenly starts drinking 13%…. And 12 oz is one serving of beer, which varies from about 2% to about 5% alcohol (with some outliers).

Glasses are deceptive in their sizes… if you really want to know how much alcohol you’re getting, measure it. Don’t eyeball the highball.

2. Know your limits. In order to avoid most of the problems that can come along with alcohol consumption, it is wise to limit consumption to no more than 3 servings of alcohol in one sitting, or 7 servings in one week. Binge drinking kills brain cells, and most of the worst things that can happen to people related to alcohol happen when they have a lot of booze at once. Your liver and brain are precious to you. Be kind to them.

(And for future reference, pregnant women should drink no more than 1 serving in a given day, preferably no more than 1/2, and no more than 3 to 3 1/2 servings per week. There’s lot of research showing this to be a safe maximum level of consumption for pregnancy, with no increase [and possibly some decrease] in negative effects short and long term for the baby vs. abstaining. Negative fetal effects are caused by heavier drinking, more than 1 serving per day, more than 7 servings per week, and any binge drinking. Even one binge drinking episode can have negative effects, and those effects can be devastating and lifelong. We don’t know where the cutoff is between 3-7 drinks per week, erring on the side of caution is keeping it under 1/2 measured serving per day. The curve is “J” shaped, and steep.)

Moreover, if you find yourself “needing a drink” or reaching for alcohol after stressful events on a frequent basis, be aware. Never treat drinking as “mandatory” or “assumed” or “expected”. It should be a choice you make, each and every time, and done mindful of the consequences. Do not slide down the slippery slope. It’s okay to be the designated driver, and it’s okay to choose friends who do not lubricate every social event with alcohol. Drinking is not bad or wrong in and of itself, but there are risks, and a potential for abuse, and it’s much, much simpler in the long run to have personal rules that limit the possibility of it becoming a problem.

3. Alcohol metabolizes at approximately one drink per hour. Not one cocktail, not one large solo cup full of beer, but one SERVING of alcohol per hour. Men may metabolize a little faster, women a little slower, and body weight matters– smaller people metabolize slower than bigger people when it comes to booze, most of the time. The best rule of thumb is do not drink and drive, ever. With a great deal of experience with both my personal limits for drinking and driving, I have learned that I can, in fact, have a small amount of alcohol at dinner and then drive safely a few hours later. But it’s less than a full drink for me to be comfortable doing that, and I can feel the minute I should stop, and I’ve been driving now for 26 years. If you have a measured drink and must then drive somewhere, make it be at least two hours after you finished the drink. Or call me for a ride. Or call a taxi. ESPECIALLY if you are at a party, do not count on “I only had one cup”. I have had the experience where I thought I had one glass of wine and a boy kept surreptitiously pouring more into my cup when I wasn’t looking. Not to get into my pants, but just because he thought it would be funny. Taxis are way cheaper and less dangerous than DUI. Much less hassle.

Even small amounts of alcohol can dull reaction times, way under the legal limit. There are people in this world who are capable of driving competently at .08. But even if you’re under .08, you can still be impaired enough to do damage, and the cops can arrest you for DUI if you’re intoxicated at all and driving badly.

If you are at a party and your designated driver is drinking, call me. Call a taxi. I don’t care which.

4. You can make really delicious fancy drinks without alcohol. Mixers can be very tasty. Tonight we had ginger ale, peach sorbet, grenadine, rose water and mint. It was every bit as good as the version that also had zinfandel in it. Virgin margaritas can taste way better than the boozy ones if made from scratch (and restaurant margaritas can be the worst for giant drinks that get you smashed quickly.)

5. Regardless of the politics of rape… the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of rapes are committed with the use of intoxicants (not only “mickies” like roofies or GHB, but just flat out getting someone so drunk they can’t resist or consent) and by people the rape victim knows. Keeping your hand over your drink (to avoid the sneaky top off or drop in) and keeping an eye on your drink from bottle to mouth is prudent. If something happens and someone rapes you while you are drunk or drugged, it will absolutely NOT be your fault. But there are ways of minimizing the risk of that happening in the first place.

When I went to college we were warned against leaving drinks unattended (males and females alike), not because of the risk of rape or roofies, but because at that point there were assholes running around who thought it was hilarious to drop PCP into people’s beverages and then watch them freak out. Especially at campus parties and special events, where eating brownies was just about guaranteed to get you high (pot), and taking random cups of beverage could be a long trip off a short pier.  If you choose to experiment with drugs, do it knowing exactly what you’re doing and what you’re taking and what the consequences might be, legal, medical and psychological. Don’t do it blind. This kind of stupidity does, happily, tend to be confined to bars and college parties in my experience, the more random people at the party, the more vigilance you should have, in general.

And if you see someone doctoring drinks or encouraging someone who is already too drunk to drink more… call them on it. Loudly. Make a scene if you have to. Call the police if necessary. Any group of people worth hanging out with will back you up.  That shit isn’t cool. Pushing alcohol past the body’s natural limits is dangerous. And drugging people without their knowledge is bullshit.

6. There is no sorority, fraternity, group, social club, or date worth risking alcohol poisoning to stay involved with. None. Any group or person that does not take “I’d rather not” or “I’ve had enough” as a completely valid reason not to imbibe intoxicants is not worth being around. See #2 and #3.  (Also: if you are going to violate the “no more than 3 drinks” rule, it better damn well be spread out over as many hours as you’re having drinks. You only have one liver.) You can do a drinking game with non-booze or diluted booze.

7. You’re legal now. You can buy all the booze you want. Do not, ever, under any circumstances, buy it for minors. They’ll ask. You can blame me if you want… “My mother would never forgive me if I bought you booze and something bad happened.” Secret: I might, eventually forgive you. But it would take a very long time. Don’t do it. That kind of popularity is not worth having.

8. Drink as much water as you do alcohol. On days when you have more than 1 drink, consider taking extra b-vitamins and an aspirin to help your body have fewer side effects. If you ever DO drink more than you normally would or should, consider R-lipoic acid (or the more easily available alpha lipoic acid) to help protect your liver and brain from the toxic effects of alcohol.

9. Caffeine cannot make someone sober. Nor can exercise. It takes time to metabolize alcohol, period. If someone you are with is having a hard time (vomiting, passing out) do not treat it lightly. Watch them. Call for help if needed (and err on the side of calling for help vs. waiting it out if they are having trouble staying conscious). It’s okay to be the person who says, “Enough.”

10. Alcohol is not just alcohol. Many alcoholic beverages also contain high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors, sulfites and other preservatives. Mixers can be particularly bad in this department. Distilled beverages derived from wheat are unlikely to contain gluten, per se, but may be irritating to the system for other reasons. If you notice negative effects after a particular beverage, it may not be the alcohol causing the problem, but something else. Wine headaches are usually sulfite allergies. Beer can contain gluten, though it often is tolerated okay, because of how the fermenting process works. There are wines that do not contain detectable sulfites, beers made from sorghum which were not made from gluten-containing grains. “Malt beverages”, often referred to as “wine coolers” are often made from gluten-containing grains. You can mix your own coolers (Lemonade and red wine is delicious) or highballs (little bit of rum, lot of limeade) with things you handle better. Get to know what you tolerate. Keep in mind that some beers and wines are clarified with a variety of substances that precipitate out things that make them cloudy. Some of those “finings” are possible allergens. If you notice yourself reacting to a beer or wine, it may be a brand-specific issue, not “all of that variety”. Cheaper liquors are notorious for the artificial colors, flavors, and HFCS. They often don’t list ingredients. It will take time and experimenting to find the ones you handle best.  Clear, good quality alcohol (gin, vodka) diluted in fruit juice is probably your safest bet, potato vodka and sake are probably the least allergenic things out there.

11. If you don’t drink beer very often, it’s way easier to afford getting the good stuff. That’s true for most alcohol. Booze can be expensive, the temptation is to go cheap. I tend to prefer to drink less, but better quality stuff when I do.

12. Alcohol can be medicating. Like all medications, it has potential side effects. It is a depressant by nature, both in that it depresses the central nervous system, and that it can worsen depression. The worst time to drink is when you are depressed. It is a muscle relaxant. This can be useful, in moderation, occasionally. It tends to reduce anxiety and inhibitions, and in small quantities this can be useful in some circumstances. It can also reduce your control, coordination and general competence level, which is not usually worth it in high pressure situations. It can relieve pain, temporarily, short term. But it tends to “put off” difficult things, rather than fixing them. It is not an easy way out, no matter how simple it seems. There are times when a stiff drink (stiff=probably containing several servings) may well be an expedient short term “solution” for emotional pain. That’s *a* stiff drink. If you find yourself needing that drink on a regular basis to deal with an ongoing situation…consider finding other ways of dealing with the situation, or the “cure” may become the problem.

Alcohol can be fun. It can be delicious. It can be relaxing. It is not without risk, and being aware of those risks and intelligent about your choices will reduce the chances of having an alcohol-related disaster.

Personally I’ve gotten throwing-up drunk three times in my life. It is not fun and it is not worth it. 2 drinks are more fun than 5, and more than 5 is a trip to the porcelain throne. There are people who will brag about having a much higher tolerance for that. Don’t be those people. There are much better skills to develop and higher aspirations to have.

You don’t have to be obnoxious or superior about not wanting to get drunk, easy enough to say, “I’m a lightweight” and act a bit sillier than you feel, while sipping your highball (heavy on the orange juice, light on the vodka) slowly. My personal interest is in you preserving your brain cells. And the rest of you.

Happy birthday. I love you!

A response to a friend on the subject of “not all men”.

If I say, “White people enslaved Black people, murdered Native Americans, and interred Japanese in concentration camps” it is very obvious inherently that I’m not referring to “All white people”. It doesn’t mean it’s not a true statement. It also doesn’t mean it’s INTENDED to be a blanket statement that refers to all white people. And the least helpful possible response to “White people did this” is “Well, not me, man.”

The most helpful possible response is, “Wow, those were shitty things to do. Why don’t we do whatever we can to make sure they don’t happen again.”

And yet… when women say, “Men rape.” Or “Men beat women” or “Men are in a position of power in this culture that puts them at an inherent advantage.” Or “Men made my life miserable through much of my childhood”… one of the first responses they get is an indignant, “Not me! Not all men do those things!”

Which is a complete distraction.

It is true that men rape. It is true that men beat women. It is true that men have an inherent power advantage due to our culture’s biases.

That does not mean, OF FUCKING COURSE it does not mean that “all men” rape. Or that “all men” beat women. Or that “all men” abuse their privilege.

Except… when you use (or try to use)  your inherent advantage to derail the conversation from “How do we stop men from raping, how do we stop men from beating women, how do we redress the inherent imbalance in our culture”…. you BECOME “All men”. It doesn’t make you a rapist, it just makes you part of the problem.

Do women rape? Yes. Do women beat men? Yes. Do men suffer because those things are invisible in a culture which assumes that because of men’s “inherent advantage” that those things cannot happen to them, that it is not physically possible for them to be victims? Yes.

The fact of the matter is that EVERYONE suffers from the bias in our culture. And the battle I am fighting, that most of the feminists I know are fighting, is one that not only lets our daughters fly and follow their passions and talents without false limits of gender bias… but one that lets our sons choose their paths as well, free of the biases that limit them too. I’m fighting for my daughter to have equal pay in the profession of her choice… and for my son to have equal access to parental leave if he ever chooses to have kids.

When we start saying, “We need to tell men not to rape” and someone says, “But not all men rape…” They’re derailing the conversation. And that conversation NEEDS to go farther. It needs to get from the basic, “We need to tell men not to rape” and get all the way to “We need to teach all our children about true and enthusiastic consent because otherwise we’re setting traps for our sons and destroying our daughters at the same time.”

When we start saying, “Men catcalling women on the street makes me feel unsafe and angry” and men pop up and say, “But we never catcall on the street” or worse, “We don’t mean anything by it, what’s your problem?”

They’re derailing the conversation. If you don’t catcall women on the street, fine. You’re not the one who makes me feel unsafe. I’m not going to pat you on the back for not being a douchebag, especially if you start being a douchebag by derailing the conversation before it can get to where it needs to go. You want kudos for not being a dick, get all the way from neutral into positive ally territory, and say, “I’m not sure I understand why that is so upsetting, but it is clearly very upsetting. So if I see someone doing that. I’m not going to be silent about it when I know how upset it could be making someone. Or even better, acknowledge that having random people invade your space uninvited because they’re acting like you’re their personal sex toy when they’re bigger and stronger than you is annoying at the least and terrifying at the worst.

That conversation needs to get from “Don’t catcall women on the street” to “Tearing other people down in order to impress the people you are with is a bad idea which makes you less of a human being and which hurts everyone involved far more than you think. Treat people with respect, no matter who you think they might be or what you might want from them.” It needs to get to the point of “Hey, women don’t LIKE being thrust onto a sexual pedestal when they’re out and about and minding their own business, because sometimes it’s just harmless and sometimes it could be a prelude to rape and we don’t KNOW until we’re safe that we are safe.”

(Hint: Not one man who ever catcalled me ever got the time of day. The ones who did? Treated me like a human being.) And if people are jumping into the conversation with “Not all men”, THE CONVERSATION CANNOT GET WHERE IT NEEDS TO GO.

If you have heard. If you understand. If you have listened…. that is what we’ve asked. If your response to that is, “But I don’t….” You haven’t understood. You haven’t listened enough.

I can say, “Men do these things” and be correct, without that meaning that I think “all men” do these things. I don’t have to spell that out. I’m not wrong for saying it.

And if at this point, you’ve already reached that conclusion… you can give yourself a gold star and move on. Not my job to pat you on the back, not my job to reassure you that you’re not “tarnished” with the “stain” of all men. You either already know you aren’t, or you need to figure it out, or you are, in fact, part of the problem. I respect you enough to believe that you can, in fact, figure out where you are at in this equation and figure out where you need to go, or at the very least what questions you need to ask.

We *all* find ourselves at one point or another sharing a broad Venn diagram with others who do shitty things. The question is, are you in the overlapping circles? Or just happen to have a few shades in common without being in the problem area?

I happen to share “white” and “feminist” with some crappy ass people who treat women of color badly in feminist discourse. They do shitty things that I do not condone. I know where I fall in that Venn diagram, and the last thing I need to do is ask some Black lesbian to tell straight white me that I’m doing a “good job” at being an ally. I’d much rather take my time to actually BE an ally, and not derail her conversation from the fact, that yes, some White Feminists do some shitty clueless and downright offensive things that they need to stop doing (Hint: Don’t hold retreats at slave plantations when women of color are asking you not to.)

Anyway. I’m not mad at you, but you asked for a mediator and clarification. It took me a half hour to write this. I’m giving you that time be because you’re a friend, and trying, I’m willing to give the clarification. I’m also going to paste it out to my blog because I don’t want to spend the time again, which I could spend sleeping, or fighting the patriarchy instead of educating people who are already supposed to be on the same side.

Note: these arguments have been spoken by many others before me. I honestly don’t think I”m saying much that is new here, hopefully I’m saying it in a way that makes sense, since clearly the deluge of other sources hasn’t yet sunk in enough that I don’t still have people on my list saying, “But not all men!” or “I don’t!” as the response to “Men did….”

There are only a handful of men in my life who have mistreated me. I have some amazing men in my life, I chose to marry one of them. Don’t tell me you don’t mistreat people… tell me how you’re going to work to make sure that no one is mistreated where you have any power in the situation at all.


addendum for the blog: if you know of a cartoon, article, tumblr or blog post that addresses this issue well (or made one of these points first) please do link in the comments. I’m sick right now and don’t have the energy to track down the links to the amazing works that have helped shape my thinking on this.

I can’t believe we’re getting on the roller coaster again

So it’s been a while since we did a round of testing with Shiny. And the school is pushing for it, because they think she has vision and hearing deficits (duh) and want to qualify her for services on that basis. So I agreed to an audiology exam…. which was pretty useless, so they set us up for another one, which was marginally less useless, and now the audiologist is pushing hard to put Shiny under to do a sedated ABR to get better data.

I said no. What I really should have said is, “Over my dead body will you put this child under general just so you can get a slightly more accurate sense of how mild her hearing loss really is because you aren’t creative enough to get results with her awake. Fuck no, do not ask me again.”

And we went to the eye doctor and the sign language specialist wants Shiny seen at the Casey Eye Institute… which I agreed to right up until I learned it was part of OHSU. The staff was nice and pleasant and listened to me while I sobbed on the phone when they called (even seeing the caller ID was triggering) and talked about what they’d do in order to make it better… and then blithely mentioned the visit would last three hours. THREE HOURS. Three hours. Like they’re going to get anything at all useful after the first 20 minutes.

And it’s OHSU. They made noises about how they were separate from Doernbecher’s children’s hospital, which is where the worst stuff happened, but they are still solidly OHSU. I just don’t think I can. Like, I do not think I can physically make myself get into a car and go up there and walk in the building that I think shares a wall with the children’s hospital and not be losing my shit everywhere all the time. How can this possibly end well, no matter how good they are? And no one has told me how they could possibly improve things over what we’ve already done? Are they magically going to make her keep her glasses on? Wave a magic wand and give her better than 20/200 vision?

She is severely farsighted with astigmatism and she has had strabismus in the past but her eyes don’t seem to wander now. Honestly I think the right answer would be laser surgery but they won’t do it because of her age. And I think they’re wrong. I think if we wait until her vision is “stable” her brain will never adjust and a huge learning window will be lost.

If she’d wear glasses, it would be one thing, but the doc refuses to prescribe glasses that fully correct her vision, because of the distortion level, and I think that absent full correction she’s never going to want to bother.

Websites say, “Do whatever it takes to keep the glasses on”. We tried. It failed. Seriously we could put her in a straitjacket and she would just bang her head on the table until the glasses broke, she hates wearing them that much. I want to grab the doctors by the ear and drag them home and say, “You make it happen. I can’t.”


7 years ago…

….we started house shopping for the last time.

When I was born, we lived one place for 6 months, I’m told, then another place for about 4 years, then another place for about 5 years, then we were in an apartment for a month, a rental for a year and then we were at the longest home of my childhood, from 1982 through 1990… at which point my parents moved and I went off to college shortly after and between those moves and the vagaries of dorms and roommates and temporary accommodations and having a baby and becoming a single mother I ended up moving 17 times in 4 years. (I don’t even know if I can remember all of them, I counted once and remember the number–I counted a move as “dragged most or all of my shit from one place to another and slept there for more than 5 nights.” It’s the shit dragging that gets you down.)

That brings us to 1995, the year I got my first “on my own” place, just me and Kailea. She was 2 1/2. We lived in that place until she started first grade, at age 6, so 3 1/2 years.  It was  rathole of a townhouse (literal rats, worst part of town, had to call the cops a lot, got my car stolen, blah blah let me tell you the story about the people having sex on the front lawn some time…)

Then she got into an alternative program and we moved immediately to a townhouse about two short blocks from her school. That was Tyler, and we lived at Tyler until I married, in 2003. So pretty all but the last couple months of K’s elementary school years. 5 years there. We bought our first house.

4 years later we learned we would have to move again. The initiating factor ended up being a non-issue, but by that time the pressures to move were immense from other angles, and in 2007, we moved into The Uncommons. Seven years ago. Most of Shiny’s life. She’s nine. How is she nine? Hard to realize that my mother in law, who was the biggest factor in moving, has been gone for more than 5 years… and was only in this, the last place she ever lived, for about 20 months. Miles has always lived here. Miles will probably live here until he graduates high school, and for one of my children, the permanency I never had (and didn’t really, to be honest, miss–many of our moves I was very glad for) will be real. I fought tooth and nail (and succeeded) in keeping K with the same group of kids but had to move to do it. Miles… his home will be his constancy, and we may be more flexible with where he goes to school.

In another year, I will have officially lived here as long as I’ve ever lived in one place. It is not a flawless house, but it is ours, and I doubt we will ever move again.

R-lipoic acid–FTW

Oh my god. I may be saying that for a while.

So those who’ve been following our journey since Shiny was one know how significantly she has been impacted by supplements. And how badly she can be affected when a brand isn’t up to par.

Our R-lipoic acid must have changed suppliers at some point. I switched her from 300 mg of Vitacost’s brand to Geronova’s liquid K-rala… and she had about 5 drops, or 50 mg, in water, and a bit more in her milk. I was going for 100 mg because the liquid stuff tends to be super bioavailable (and expensive!)

And spent the morning…. chattering. And at dinner attempted and succeeded at a new word/phrase.

I’ve dropped EVERY vitacost “house brand” vitamin we have. Every single one, for every family member. Could be why I’ve been getting sicker? Eff you, Vitacost.

The difference was clear in hours. Hours. HOURS.


Hip Dysplasia and babywearing?

This is mostly a “catch all” post pulling together things I’ve written other places. So it’s not perfectly organized, but keeps me from having to sift through years of Facebook posts to find these things.  Most of these are from late summer/early fall 2012.

A while ago I posted this (just so that we’re clear that I am REALLY not a fan of the Baby Bjorn original style carrier):

Look, hate the Bjorn because it’s not comfortable for heavier babies. Hate it because it’s an awkward thing. Hate it because it turns people away from babywearing as “too uncomfortable” at a time when babywearing becomes supremely useful. But terrifying parents that they’ve damaged their children’s spines by using a bjorn for a few hours a day for a couple of months? SHOW ME THE GODDAMNED RESEARCH. Bjorns are not the same as swaddling or cradleboards, which CAN cause hip problems.

Yes, there are better, cheaper, whatever carriers out there. But let’s not make parents feel like shit about something that’s probably better for their kid than hanging out in a carseat all day (and we’ve got research on why that’s not a good idea…)

This was posted:

Along with a link to Boba’s blog and a rant about front facing out being awful.

I responded:

I’d really like to see the research specific to the Baby Bjorn that says that that kind of carrier causes hip dysplasia. Swaddling the hips tightly, sure, but the Bjorn is not the same position as a tight swaddle, and swaddling tends to be done 24/7 whereas babywearing (especially facing out) is very time limited in comparison. 

I don’t like the Bjorn for a lot of reasons, but I think it is hyperbole to tell parents they are harming their child by using it, and I’m tired of us not supporting parents in doing what it takes to nurture their babies in a way that works for them. 

It is very easy to get snobby and elitist about “good” carriers vs. bad carriers, but I really just love seeing people wear their babies however is comfortable for them and their baby. If the Bjorn is working for someone, great, I just hope they don’t stop babywearing entirely when their baby gets too big for the Bjorn. 

As for front facing out… People need to get a grip. Overstimulated babies show clear signs of overstimulation. They yawn. They hiccup. They rub their eyes. They cry. They go to sleep. If your baby is not doing those things, your baby is probably not overstimulated, and front facing out isn’t hurting him. One of the arguments FOR babywearing is that babies get more stimulation being up at parent-level. So again, making parents feel bad because it’s not a position you like? Really not cool. 

I’ve been babywearing for more than 19 years, and doing babywearing education for 18 years, and I have seen some wacky and dangerous carriers. The Bjorn is merely short-lived and potentially uncomfortable. 

The spine-and-hip development argument started with an opinion by a chiropractor, and what has followed from that is essentially a circle-jerk of people referencing each other, NOT research, not anything scientifically defensible. What we do know is that babies in arms tend to cry less and be happier than babies who are not worn. We know that we get more done without making our babies scream while we do it when we wear our babies. We know that babies airways need to be protected. We know that we should stay alert and aware of our babies while they are being worn. We do not know if the few hours a week most Bjorn users use the carrier are actually harmful, but the odds are low that they are.

If there was good, solid research showing the bjorn was harmful to spinal development, there would be a huge fuss from doctors and we’d be scrambling to differentiate the bjorn from other carriers in the eyes of the public. There is not. So until there is, give families a break, and be glad that that baby on the left is grinning…. and what the dad is doing looks like fun too. The baby on the left is attached to mama, and that’s the important thing, no?



So then….
I contacted the International Hip Dysplasia Institute to ask them about what research they had to support their claim that Bjorn-style carriers cause hip dysplasia, since their graphic was being used all over the Internet to support that claim. Here is their response:

From the IHDI Medical Advisory Board -

Thank you for contacting us and expressing your concern.

The International Hip Dysplasia Institute does not endorse or advice for or against any type of infant carrier. As you have noted, there are many benefits from baby wearing that must be weighed against any potential for harm to the hips. You are correct that there is no evidence for or against baby carriers as a cause of hip dysplasia. It is regrettable if our statments are being used inappropriately as “evidence” as you have indicated. However, there is ample evidence that hip dysplasia is influenced by environmental factors including swaddling. More than 90% of hip dysplasia is discovered in adolescents and young adults as early onset arthritis. Those individuals did not have neonatal hip instability that is the widely recognized form of early dysplasia. This suggests that the hips in the arthritic variety do not develop properly at some point in time although they were not detectable during infancy. Breeds of dogs that are susceptible to hip dysplasia have normal hips at birth and do not develop the arthritic form of hip dysplasia when they are prevented from walking until six weeks of age. In human studies, hip dysplasia is more common in Northern climates and in those born during winter months. Thus, there are potential influences for hip dysplasia besides swaddling. Our advice is to maintain the hips in a natural position for the first few months of life while the joint is forming, ligaments are often loose, and muscle contractures are still present.

We hope that this response is helpful to you. Should you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to ask, we will help in any way that we are able to.


Susan Pappas
Assistant to Charles T. Price, MD, FAAP
Director International Hip Dysplasia Institute

So there you go. I’d buy swaddling as something that exacerbates hip dysplasia, but swaddling and bjorns are entirely different, stress-wise.

Another post…

So it’s driving me crazy how the babywearing community seems to have turned into piranhas about this carrier or that carry being “unsafe” or “bad” simply because they don’t fit some perfect ideal of what babywearing should look like in that person’s mind. Y’all know how much I love babywearing, but carriers are TOOLS.

Babywearing is something that may approach religion for some, but for most is simply a convenience. If I’m just hauling the baby from the car to the couch, I may stuff my kid in the top of a mei tai, standing in it, hanging half out of it with one hand holding him in. Is is perfect babywearing? No. Would it be safe if I took my hand off him or was trying to wear him for hours? No. Is it functional for the 40 steps from the car to the couch? Sure.

There are MANY carriers out there that are not perfect. For me, wraps are not perfect, especially for back carries. My teenager could tell you how many times she’s rescued the baby off my back with me with a sour expression on my face because something went horribly wrong while I was trying to get a specific back carry to work. I have mobility issues right now. While I *can* bend more than most people, I really shouldn’t because it damages me. So there are back carries that just aren’t functional for me. Does that make wraps “bad carriers” or “inherently unsafe” just because I can’t get it right? No. It just means they aren’t the right carrier for ME with this baby, at this stage in my life with this mobility level.

And don’t get me started on front facing out. After watching my friend Kimberly carry her daughter on her hip facing out(without a carrier), and watching many men carry their babies sitting facing out on their arms like their arm was a chair, I cannot abide the argument that front facing out is “unnatural” and I get stabby when people start ranting about how it overstimulates babies or will somehow warp their hips for life. How about instead we talk about how to wear babies in a way that is in touch with what they need? How about we talk about being in tune with signs of overstimulation (hiccuping, yawning, looking away in tiny babies, getting hyper in older babies, rubbing eyes, griping) and that an overstimulated baby should be turned around? How about we discuss getting babies into a well-supported position instead of scaring parents that somehow they’ve damaged their babies? Trust me, they haven’t.

I will say this. There is no one right way to wear babies. There is no one perfect carrier that works “best” for every situation or family. People need to get off their high horses and get some perspective.

Some gorgeous babywearing photos have been posted recently, and the comments are full of how those parents are doing it wrong. GET A GRIP, PEOPLE!!!! Just because you don’t like wearing your ergo on your hips and your baby throws a hissy if he can’t see over your shoulder doesn’t mean that smiling baby on his daddy’s back is somehow miserable because he’s “too low”. Talk about off-putting. You want more people to wear their babies? How about you don’t criticize every detail of how they wear their babies? Save it for the real unsafe stuff, like babies deep in pouches with their chins on their chests and blankets over their heads. Save it for the situations where real safety issues are present. Quit giving people a hard time because it’s a bjorn or it looks funny to you or wasn’t what you were taught.


The nice thing is that the dominant attitude among most babywearing experts that I know (and I know a lot of babywearing experts) is now “Practice, not product”, which teaches that babywearing is a skill, not a specialty item. And in that vein:

“Practice, not product”

“Why is Arie wearing a Bjorn?” How to make a bjorn more comfortable.

Awesome, awesome post on babywearing as a practice and a skill, and getting past the “quest for perfection” that can be so defeating.


And an amusing postscript… Bjorn has made a website saying basically what I’ve been saying (we don’t have research to say front facing out is bad). But they recently announced a carrier that they are developing in conjunction with the IHDI, with better hip position. It is hard to imagine how better hip position would NOT create a more comfortable carrier. So yay, change.

And lest anyone jump in with “if you had hip issues you might take this more seriously…”

I have hip issues. I have hip issues galore. In me, they are not caused by being worn in a frontpack. They are caused by childbirth. And having Ehlers Danlos through three pregnancies. (I was born with uneven creases and developed severe hip pain during the birth of my second child, and have been dealing with hips that don’t like to stay properly aligned and a sacrum that goes wonky at the drop of a hat ever since. None of which has ANYTHING to do with how I was carried in infancy.)

Reasons to keep on nursing your toddler, even when they annoy the crap out of you.

Reasons to nurse a toddler
1. Toddlers are notoriously fickle about what they will eat in a given day. Three grapes, a dust bunny and a half a crayon are less worrisome when you know they’ve nursed a couple of times (or more).
2. They roll on the ground in public places during flu season. (And transfer some of those germs to your breast, which tells your boobs to boost immune factors. Boobs are amazing. Toddler milk for a child not nursing often may be more immune-factor-dense than even newborn milk.)
3. The big bad world is a scary place. The boob is a great source of comfort and can help ease anxiety and smooth transitions.
4. Kids are hilarious when they talk about nursing. “I luf dat boop! I nursh please, thanks!”
5. Breastmilk absorbs quickly. So even if they’re puking and having diarrhea, breastmilk can help keep them hydrated and out of the hospital. (See #2, insert “norovirus” for flu)
6. More than just comfort, nursing releases endorphins for both mother and child. This is especially important when a child is injured. Boob helps ease the pain and calm the child (and the mom!)
7. Speaking of injuries, toddlers fall. Mouth injuries are not uncommon. Breastfeeding applies a perfect amount of direct pressure for lip and tongue injuries, stops bleeding, eases pain and may take “Oh my god we have to run to the ER” to “Oh, hey, I think he’s going to be all right” in a matter of minutes. It is in fact very difficult to apply direct pressure to a toddler’s lip in any other way.
8. Breastmilk is incredibly soothing for sore throats and can help a child who is refusing all food and drink get to the point of being able to take things by mouth. (I have pumped fresh milk for a friend’s sick, weaned child for this purpose. 3 ounces was enough to get him eating again.)

It is easier to go from some supply (even if small) to a lot of supply for a sick child than it is to go from no supply to any supply at all. It is NOT unusual to not enjoy toddler nursing. Sometimes it makes me want to jump out of my skin. But then something happens and I remember why I keep on keeping on. Because the benefits are worth it, and when we need it, we really, really need it. So I set limits wherever I need to, but I don’t cut him off entirely.

How not to lose food in a power outage

The power goes out! What do you do?

1: DO NOT OPEN THE REFRIGERATOR OR FREEZER. Not for anything until you have some ice.

2. Why did the power go out? If it’s due to cold temps outside… not to worry! Take all your freezer food and put it outside. Get organized, put it in a cooler or tote inside, and then put it outside all at once so you are not leaving your door open and letting your precious heat out any more than necessary. It will be fine out there until the temps hit 33 degrees, at which point you will either have power or you will find another solution.  While you’re putting your food outside, get some snow, pack it tight in plastic containers, baggies, anything watertight. Put the snow in the fridge. You can now get food out of the fridge until the snow melts…at which point you need to put more snow in.

3. If the power outage is NOT due to cold weather, you have a couple hours before things become urgent. Talk to the power company. The freezer and fridge should be fine for a few hours as long as it is not super duper hot–they are well insulated, just LEAVE THEM CLOSED. If the estimate is “you’ll be repaired in an hour”, just wait it out. If the estimate is, “We don’t know, it could be days”… you need to take prompt action. If you have substantial freezer stores, buy or rent a generator if you can in the long run, but in the short run, you need ICE. Buy ice or even dry ice as soon as you possibly can. A chest freezer well packed can stay safe for up to two days without added cold stores, but can stay cold indefinitely if you keep tossing dry ice into it every day or so. A fridge is good for about 4 hours with no power and no ice if you do not open it.

It is almost always going to be cheaper to keep the food cold than to buy all new food. Even if you end up spending $100-150 on a “multi day cooler” and packing that full of your fridge goods and some ice, it will still be cheaper than replacing every single thing in there. If you have the storage space and are prone to power outages, consider getting a large “igloo” cooler.

Frozen foods can be refrozen as long as they still have some ice crystals and are below 40 degrees.

So what if your freezer does defrost and the food is “safe” but not icy?

Keep it cold, cook it as quickly as you can, and freeze the cooked food.

Also, ASK FOR HELP. If you are having issues keeping your food cold and can’t drive to get supplies, if the roads are passable for a skilled driver, ask your friends if there is someone who can help you save your food.

Here’s what the g’ummint says about it:



Please don’t be sad that your children are growing up

I see this all the time, parents expressing sorrow that their children have hit another milestone, have left another stage behind.

I understand being wistful, I still don’t grasp how that newborn I held is suddenly this active little boy. But regret?

No. Not even for the last baby.

I also see parents so eager for the next stage that they push the envelope… rushing ahead. Not even for the first baby.

I’ve not been wildly successful at a lot of things in my life, but one that I’m doing quite well is enjoying Miles’ stages while he is in them. He leaps forward in bounds, now crawling, now talking, now conversing, now jumping and spinning and throwing tantrums and I know that Why is just around the corner…. And as he leaves each stage behind, I do not mourn.

I had a baby who stayed a baby. Shiny was a newborn for months. She was an infant in arms for over a year. A scootching and then crawling baby for many years.

And I will never tell a child, “Don’t grow up”. I will never tell a child, “Stay the way you are”. I’ve seen that. It’s not what you think.

I don’t push Miles forward, but I don’t hold him back. I love the stage he’s at now… and will be grateful when he leaves it behind, as he’s left every other stage behind. Because that’s what children do. What they are supposed to do.

And when they don’t, if you get that wish that they’d just stay this way…. something has gone terribly wrong. Please don’t wish for that.

Duct Tape Baby Carrier

So, back in 2006, in preparation for the first International Babywearing Conference, I made this:


Yes, this is a duct tape mei tai. And that’s wee Shiny at 16 months old.


I designed it to be reversible. Kristi Hayes-Devlin of Wrapsody demonstrated it as a back carrier, with the reverse side showing.



Once I buffered Shiny’s skin with a scarf, she fell asleep. It was pretty comfy, all things considered.




Gabi, who founded Beco, was inspired. With a pillowcase and a couple long strips of duct tape, she made a podaegi. Someone added a pair of sling rings to turn it into an onbuhimo at some point.




It was epic. And pretty legendary. I always thought about making another duct tape carrier but never quite had sufficient motivation. A full duct tape mei tai takes about $20 of tape and 2 1/2 to 3 hours worth of work. It’s actually easier to make a carrier out of fabric. With a duct tape carrier you’re basically making the fabric, as well as the carrier.

Fast forward from August of 2006 to January of 2014. How is it possible that over 7 years have passed? And pray tell, how could *I* possibly forget ALL my baby carriers at home? Every one. My car had been cleaned out thoroughly, so no stragglers. And we were in Seattle, at a filk convention, with a rambunctious two year old who decided that running away was the new game of the moment.

I considered, briefly, hijacking a bedsheet. But I had to go to the store anyway, and thought, “You know, if after 20 years of babywearing I can’t come up with something more fun than a plain white hotel bedsheet, I’m clearly doing it wrong.”

Four rolls of duct tape and two and a half hours later, I had this:



That, my dears, is a fixed-strap half mei tai, custom sized for Miles and for me. I knew I wouldn’t use it on the front, so no need to waste tape and time and effort making the top straps adjustable. I didn’t want a whole lot of bulk around his middle, and knew where the stresses and supports needed to be, so I shaped it. Made the waist band long enough to do tibetan style, knowing that every step I could take to pull the tape straps out of my armpits would add half an hour to the time I could wear this. Plus, tibetan style, I would not have to knot the duct tape straps–I just went back and forth a couple times between the two straps and the friction held everything VERY securely in place.



He looks a lot like his sister.

I used it all weekend, for up to a half hour or so at a time. It worked best when I wrapped a scarf (bought one with the duct tape, just in case) around his bum and my waist, drawing his weight in lower down. But even without, was quite serviceable. Not as good as a padded toddler carrier, but certainly as comfy or more comfy than the vast majority of other carriers.

20 1/2 years of babywearing.

Yep, I still got it.


Now, for some technical details, rules I follow, because while I am not RECOMMENDING that others try this, I know some people probably will and it would be wise for people to observe some safety guidelines.

1. No adhesive is to come in contact with baby, and should not come in contact with the wearer once the carrier is finished.

2. ALL places on the carrier must have at least 4 layers of tape, and any non-strap area must have tape running in multiple directions. I make a “sheet” of duct tape fabric by lining the tape up in one direction, then applying tape to the glue side at a different angle. I used no scissors in the making of the most recent one, but the tidiest result will happen if you make a big sheet of rough-edged double-layer “fabric” out of duct tape and then trim the edges.

3. Attention to strap safety is a must. The straps on this are four layers thick… and they are reinforced where they join the body. In fact, I applied the straps when there were two layers of duct tape to the body, and then went over the top with more layers of tape, creating one large “piece” shaped and strapped.

4. Finish edges with half-strips of tape. This will prevent tearing and keep the glue off everyone’s skin.

5. If you are planning on wearing baby on the front, DO make longer top straps and go the mei-tai route. If you are not going to use it as a front carrier, you can do fixed straps. I did this with help from my husband, tying the carrier around my waist while he held our son in place, then measuring the length of the top straps on our bodies. If you want a more SSC style carrier you’re going to need to get some side release buckles, and at that point you might as well sew the darned thing out of fabric, it will be more comfy.

6. Rulers are not needed. I used a piece of folded-over tape to measure from the front of one of his armpits, around his back, to the front of his other armpit, and then added some width for tape. I measured from the back of his neck to the front of his crotch, and from knee to knee across his bum. That set the width of top and bottom and the length of the carrier (essentially tied apron style, though that’s not how I put it on.) The bottom straps I just made “plenty long”.  The hourglass middle is a little wider than the width of his back and positioned near his hips. His legs are well enough supported. If I”d been less tired I might have shaped the body and made it a little wider in the middle.

7. The core of this is relatively inexpensive silver standard duct tape. Decorative print duct tape is much spendier, so save it for the outer later. All layers are structural, but having a core of 2 layers of silver and then making it completely covered with decorative tape to the point where no silver shows guarantees sufficient tape throughout.

Duct tape is very strong lengthwise, but is designed to tear. This is why multidirectional tape is a must in all places and finished edges are a must. Most fabrics are designed this way!

This required no sewing, no hardware, no scissors, no rulers. It is custom and fitted to us, but not “share-able” the way a full four-strap mei tai would be.

Combining duct tape and fabric is possible, but you need to pay attention to stresses and reinforcement.

Every time you wear a carrier, no matter what it is made from, you MUST check it for wear. A $20 duct tape carrier WILL wear out with use, duct tape is not designed to withstand constant flexing and friction, so you do need to check it every single time, especially at stress points.

I am more comfortable using a duct tape carrier on an older baby or toddler. For an infant I’d rather use a bedsheet. This is a good “In a pinch” carrier, but duct tape is not designed for babies to mouth. On a mei tai, you can “dress” the mei tai with a long sleeved shirt to protect baby from the tape, if you must.

These are really best for short term use, and in situations where you want to get people talking about babywearing. I took my first duct tape carrier to the SCA…

Feel-better Chai Pudding

An experiment worth repeating….

In a jar:
1/4 cup chia seed
1/8 cup coconut sugar
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1/8 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon “power tea” (Power Tea is a mixture of organic spices including: Ceylon Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Turmeric, Black Pepper and Cayenne Pepper., very chai-ish, LOTS of anti-inflammatory action.)
1 tablespoon elderberry syrup
1 cup almond milk or coconut water or raw milk or coconut milk or whatever.  I used a blend of almond milk and coconut water.

I actually tripled this recipe though had to short the milk a tiny bit to fit in a quart jar.
Stir well and let sit in the fridge for a couple hours.

It makes a spicy chocolate pudding that unlike refined-sugar-based desserts, actually leaves one feeling better. I’ve been fighting off the flu for a couple days, and I feel almost 100% after a bowl of this.

The cocoa, spices and elderberry all have good evidence for being medicinal. Also very tasty.


So we’ve been using Ridesource (special needs public transport) since December. While it does save me driving, it has been a MASSIVE hassle. Top on the list is child safety seats. Technically Shiny is allowed to ride with just a belt. In practice, the belts are too big. A low back booster makes it fit, but is not ideal because you’re not supposed to use a low-back booster with a lap belt. Her carseat weighs 20 pounds and is not a great fit on the bus because the seats are too small and it has too much movement with a lap-only belt and there’s no actual tether point for the top tether.

So today Shiny gets off the bus and the driver says, “By the way, the lap only belts don’t fit her well enough to keep her from moving around” (she’s made 3 trips this way and they’re only just now telling me this?) but I just put her in the kid seat in the back, and it fit perfectly and she stayed put.


The one that one of the back seats breaks down into, that’s what. Which apparently NO ONE but THIS driver knew. 

So YAY, they have a built-in kid seat on the bus that works perfectly for her!


And I quote, “Every one of the buses has one.”