Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Little Emperor's New Clothes

Is poo a puerile topic?  Perhaps.  It certainly is easy fodder for a lot of shame-based humor.  But perilous things begin to happen when we don’t give poo its rightful place in the world.  As parents, often quite unwittingly, we become purveyors of poo.  With all of the other pressing issues facing new parents, it’s easy to push this one to the back burner.    But after sixteen months of letting my baby’s poo lead me around by the nose, I am turning the tables, and taking matters into my own hands.  

I really don’t mind sacrificing my fine, youthful hands for the benefits of cloth diapering.  While my skin may be crying, the earth, I swear, is grinning ear to ear.  And these five-blowout mornings, like five-alarm fires, are nothing less than heroic.  I always wanted to be a hero.  Even if I must eek out my days as the unsung heroine of my baby’s butt.

I think one day when he’s older, and enjoying hopefully a few more mountains and a few less mountains of waste, he’ll thank me for it.

Prior to my recent switch to cloth, my approach to all things diaper was really half-assed.  I had considered cloth briefly, but my partner had heartily poo-pooed the idea, saying he didn’t want the washer abused.  But since he doesn’t really lend much of a hand in the diapering arena, I figure he really doesn’t get to say anything about how I diaper.  Plus I know he will not be complaining when he sees what we save.  For sixteen months we fell into the typical traps of living on an island, where you don’t get a lot of choices for bargain shopping.  Most parents have their diapers shipped.  Of course, it takes a little planning.  I found myself doing that occasionally, but for the most part was forever running to the store to grab “a few more.”  Buying diapers in that way is probably the most expensive way to do it.  And yet it’s easy to fall into that trap.

In truth, while I appreciate green thinking, I can also be kind of selfish when it comes to my time.  My main impetus for switching to cloth was not altruism so much as a selfish need to simplify my life.  I was tired of the last minute runs at 7 a.m.  I was tired of being a slave to retail, and nauseated by the sight of mounds of non-biodegradable waste we were creating, little innocuous looking snowballs of rolled and taped plastic diapers that were in fact diffusing noxious waste into the air. 

With disposables comes an attitude of massive poo denial.  I never transferred the number twos into the toilet.  I didn’t know to.  I see now, in my research, that I am not alone with this.  That in fact only half of one percent of the waste of the 92 percent that use  disposables winds up in the septic system.  That means it is all going to the landfill.  When you consider that disposable diapers constitute the third largest form of non-biodegradable waste at the landfill, this is a horrifying thought.  It takes over two hundred and fifty years for one diaper to decompose.

It is too taboo to talk about poo.  We just don’t want to go there, and shine a light on this most base aspect of our human existence.  But by not talking about it and raising consciousness about it, we are doing our earth, and our children’s earth, a serious injustice.   Yes, that’s right.  I’m getting up on a poo-destal about it. 

As parents, we have a responsibility to properly dispose of our prince and princess’s poos.  There’s not really anyway to get around it.  Poo is just part of the process.  If you’re going to become a parent, you’re going to have to make do with poo.  Either you deal with it up front and flush it, like you’re supposed to, or you let it vaporize into the air you breathe from the diaper pail and soil the landfill. 

There’s the devil you know and the devil you don’t know.  The devil you don’t know is pretty darned disgusting.  It’s taken me sixteen months of disposable diapering to finally see the light and make friends with the devil I know.  Yes, I may be investing more in hand lotions and nail brushes, but in the end, the devil I know is the cleaner way to go.  Really, have you ever asked yourself what would happen if we adults all started throwing our human waste into the trash, along with that of our children, rather than burying it in our septic systems?  We would be mounting an environmental catastrophe.  We would be Haiti.  And with the improper disposal of our children’s waste alone, that is what we are fast on our way to becoming.     

Now that we have gotten it out in the open that no matter how you package it, whether you use disposable or cloth, every mom and dad of a little one has a poo problem, the leap to cloth becomes a baby step.

Please stay tuned for more blogging about my adventures in cloth.

Here are some interesting blogs with useful facts and information on cloth versus disposable diapering.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shopping? or Dropping?

Although it was a miserable day outside and the sky was spitting cold rain I had this idea that the one year old and I would make a quick trip to the supermarket to get a couple of things.  Like there is such thing as a quick trip with a one year old.  Especially on a rainy day.  Generally, this time of year, just getting him into his cold weather gear and out the door is a feat. 

First we do the Hat Song and Dance for about ten minutes, where I put his hat on his head and he says, “Hat!” and takes it off,  and I put it on again and he takes it off again, etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum.  Then we do the Vacuum Cleaner Dance, where I am in the mud room trying to lace up my boots (what the hell was I thinking, picking out these time-consuming lace-up boots, anyway?) and Cayce is busy pushing over the vacuum cleaner and I am calling “Cayce! Cayce come to Mama!” to no avail.  So it was one of these kinds of days, a day that has you pining for summer and freedom from hats and coats and boots.  A day when getting the little man strapped into his car seat where he can wreak no havoc comes with a wave of relief.  When you collapse behind the wheel of the car and thank god for the gas peddle that will do the heavy lifting for a while.

But on an island the drive to the market is woefully short.  Five minutes later we are in the store parking lot. The sky is still puking a cold, chilling spray.  With the lanky twenty-three pound boy thrown over my shoulder I search in vain for a dry shopping cart.  The thing that really throws a wrench into shopping with a small child on a rainy day on this island is not the toddler’s natural propensity for mischief but the fact that, even though our local Stop & Shop is the highest grossing store in the chain countrywide, and even though our climate sees a higher than average amount of rainfall, we are probably also the only branch in the country that has no shelter for the darn carts.  So on a rainy day all the carts are left outside to get wet.  In any other town, people would just go to another store.  But here we don’t have another option, so even if you don’t have child transportation to consider, you have no choice but to get your expensive groceries wet.  That was an inconvenience I could live with, but getting my child who is fighting a cold wet is another thing.     

Earlier in the month when we were out on a wet day I had the wherewithal to ask a store manager to please get me some paper towels, so I could dry the seat out for my kid.  Yesterday I was so harried by the time I even got to the store, I forgot all about my previous tactic.  Instead I made the faulty assessment that since we were just getting “a couple of things” I could forgo the cart and either walk around with Cayce in my arms, and a basket dangling over one wrist, or have him walk with me, holding my hand.

Ha! Ha! Ha!  I thought wrong.  Carrying him worked for the first five minutes.  Except for the fact that it was hard to see my way around corners, and I had a tendency to sideswipe other shoppers, his weight felt manageable at first.  I peeled him a banana as I often do when we shop, but this time I would have to ignore the fact that he was holding onto ropes of my hair with his fruity hands.    Eventually the basket filled and got so heavy I had to put the boy down.  What a lark thinking he would hold my hand.  He kept pulling his hand away and darting at the things on the shelves.  I tried to get creative now, in how I was going to manage the basket, which wasn’t holding all the things I in fact wanted to buy, and the boy, who wasn’t for one minute going to be held back by me. 

I thought enlisting his help might keep him on task.   

“Here, Honey.  Will you carry the paper towel for Mommy?” 

The roll of towel was as big as his torso.  His arms barely reached around it.  He looked like an ant with an oversize breadcrumb.  It would pad him if he fell, I thought, fleetingly, when really I knew that he would need use of his hands  Out of the corner of my eye I was sure I could see people shooting me scrupulous glances.

Quickly stuffing the roll under my own arm I said, “Hold Mommy’s hand.”  Teetering and top-heavy, like the blind leading the blind, Mommy saying “No touch, no touch” and Cayce reaching his outstretched hand toward the rows of brightly packaged Valentine’s goods, we made our way to a check out aisle. 

I held Cayce up on the cashier’s counter while I watched the groceries pile up on top of the end of the spinning belt.  That spinning belt was a sure hazard for active toddler whose feet were now in dangerous proximity. 

I mumbled something to the cashier about how I couldn’t find a dry cart, and how was I going to make it back to my car now, with my bags AND the baby?  I knew this kind of thing must happen to other parents.  No, other parents would have brought one of those cloth seat inserts for germ-o-phobes and called it a day.  

Thank god the cashier saw a cart and ran quickly to my aid to get it.  Now I could get the baby into the dry seat and out of way of the spinning conveyor belt.  And I could get my groceries and my child back to the car.  Without looking like a total freak doing it.

So any one out there who caught a gander at the two of us trying to accomplish the most basic task among civilized beings and struggling pathetically at it, and who perhaps thought, “That is one dysfunctional mom,” I rest my case.  It was not my fault.  It was all because of Stop and Shop and their darned wet carts. 

All I ask is that the next time you are tempted to make mock of a parent who is doing a lousy job in public, try to think of the big picture.  Maybe they were just having a Bad Chair Day.  We all have those, don’t we?    

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Boy in Training

“Mmm-waaaaa!  Mmm-waaaa!” Cayce gives his doll kisses.  He thrusts the doll into my face so that I can also give him kisses.  He says, “Ah (eye)” as he points to the green stitched eye, and “Mah” as he points to the pink stitched mouth.  He says, “Ha(t).  Ha(t)” pointing to the doll’s long tapered hat, but still unable to pronounce the closing “t” sound.  Then by the tip of said “ha” he flings the baby aside as he nuzzles up to nurse. 

Another thing he loves to do is to throw the baby off the side of the bed and then peer over it, saying “Uh-oh,” and watching with great satisfaction as Mommy becomes a contortionist in her effort to rescue the wee creature from certain peril.

When Cayce does this little Michael Jackson move with his doll, I think he is testing me to make sure that I will help him rescue it.  He can’t rescue his doll yet- the bed, not a crib, but a queen size bed that we share- is too high.  If I leave Cayce to rescue his doll, he’s likely to get hurt doing it.   So in that moment when I lean over and let all the blood rush into my head and get dizzy while I get that darned doll I am giving Cayce the message that dolls, like babies, need to be taken care of.   The idea of babies being cared for is already part of his belief system, and he is asking me to confirm what he believes to be true.  Of course, he might also be trying to tell me something else… perhaps that the bed isn’t safe for him or the baby doll?  That either of them could go over the side in the way that the doll has?  (We co-sleep in an adult bed, and I am forever weighing in my mind the benefits of this nurturance versus the risks of a head injury- but that’s a subject for another blog post.)

I guess the doll has been a success.  Certainly the other adults in the room were taken with it when I helped Cayce pull it out of the box.  A unique, one-of-a-kind Waldorf style doll named Aslan of Scottish descent in a Shetland sweater body and a few curly blond locks of yarn peeking out from the brim of his stocking hat.  The doll maker achieved a lovely cotton face complete with blushing cheeks, but no nose, as is the Waldorf style.  I think the idea is that noses are too specific, too distinct, so if you want the doll to mirror your child, no nose perhaps better resembles your child than a too distinct nose… The doll has a wonderful feel and warmth, since it’s made from all natural materials, and stuffed with wool.  A plush, but synthetic bunny might take on the chill of the room, but not Aslan the handmade doll.  Aslan is always warm.  He warms like a blanket on a cold night.

Still, Aslan has faced some stiff competition from some of Cayce’s other stuffed, albeit synthetic, friends.    I think the distinctions in craftsmanship are mostly lost on Cayce.  Perhaps over time the handcrafted doll will prove to win the boy’s lasting affection but right now, any doll or stuffed animal or diaper package will do.   Right now, I hate to say it, but Cayce’s fascination with Elmo trumps his other affections.  He finds Elmo everywhere, in an ad from a parenting magazine, on a diaper, in the hand-me-down Elmo knapsack that arrived from his six-year-old friend Sylvie in Brooklyn on Christmas Eve.  Elmo is on our 6 a.m. commercial-free public broadcasting, and in the shape of our Earth’s Best crackers.  Elmo is in the house. 

Elmo’s baby voice drives Mommy and Daddy crazy.  And I think his plastic golf ball eyes are perhaps a little less wholesome to teethe on than Aslan’s sweater hat.  The ink portraying Elmo on the diapers is horrendous.  Cayce will cry now while I’m changing him unless I give him a spare diaper to “read.”  He turns it around in his hands, examining the little Elmo’s and “Osh-cahs” (who are in fact Cookie Monsters) with the gravitas of an historian scrutinizing a dead sea scroll.  He’s so obsessed I’m considering abandoning Pampers altogether and switching to cloth.  

But it is what it is.  And Elmo is Elmo.  And as long as everyone’s getting more-- “Mmmm-waaaaa!”-- kisses than they are tosses over the edge of doom, then I guess it’s all good.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Puppet Power

Move over, Martha, this mom has made something magnificent. 

I’m not sure if it was the pauper penny-pincher in me or the part of me with a pension for things homemade that prompted me to put together a puppet for my one-year-old.  The idea was to make use of some mismatched fleece socks.  The fingers of a striped glove would do for antlers or a gullet.  The red and beige plaid cotton left from some curtains would make a fine mouth on the dark brown sock I had chosen.  Perhaps a touch more plaid for a scarf.  I stitched in a beige nose, and put on buttons for eyes.  Add the purple striped antlers get some name feedback from your Facebook friends,  and Voila! You have Rudy the Rad Reindeer. 

Hand puppets present a powerful world of possibilities when it comes to play.  From the time my tot was a tummy-timer unable to crawl he has been fascinated by the voices that animate my toes- - his first toys.   Seeing him erupt in beautiful, ear-to-ear laughter was fodder enough to encourage my silliness.  Toes make terrific toys.  They never get lost, are always within reach, and the possibilities are endless when it comes to voice-over shape shifting magic.   My fear of toe jam diminished when I witnessed the serotonin surging in my son’s soul.  Serotonin, the happiness hormone, plays an important role in the immune system.   The antibodies from nursing and a steady supplemental diet of laughter have kept Cayce in stellar health.  Believe me, it is not my fearsome housekeeping that keeps the boy healthy.  Silliness and song, furry friends with sweet and gravely voices have been the ticket. 

Rudy the Rad Reindeer has proven to be hands down one of my son’s most beloved Christmas gifts, and the only one that cost absolutely nothing.  With his big plaid mouth Rudy nibbles and names all of the parts of Cayce’s face, and squeezes his dimpled, laughing cheeks.  Cayce is fascinated by the relationship between Rudy and me.  He loves nothing more than to pull the talking, lip-chomping puppet off my hand and watch him “deflate” and become lifeless.  Then he hands him right back to me, to my wiggling fingers and my scratchy, “Rudy” voice, to watch him return to life again.

Rudy loses his meaning if left in a toy box or upon a shelf.  He requires the active participation of a parent.  It requires one to commit to the child’s world, and to leave the petty, pedantic, and sometimes plain paranoid part of parenting behind.  It is the two-way dynamic that makes a puppet such an engaging toy for a child.  So go ahead and get goofy.  Make your voice squeak or scratch or sigh or giggle.  Give your hand (or toe) a little wiggle, and let the laughter commence!