Sunday, September 26, 2010

The kid's got taste

Pabst wrist bands, Steelers shirts, and Charlie Brown Lunch Boxes. Really. He's knows where it's at.
And now, thanks to a generous birthday gift from Auntie Mary Ann and Uncle Andy, he's got style, too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I don't know

It’s not a real problem, really. It’s perspective. See, our contractor bid the house with 9’ walls. And we got kind of excited thinking, Yay! Higher ceilings! Bigger windows! But we didn’t think about the cupola. Well, that’s not true. We did. We thought, oh good, bigger windows for those 360 degree views.  But that extra foot of difference kind of messed it up.
I think it’s probably not a huge deal in the general scheme of things, but right now it seems monumental. The cupola looks like a hat. Its proportions are off. Instead of the long horizontal lines we were going for with Prairie style FLW architecture, we got a box. The extra foot made the roof higher and the windows higher and pulled everything up when it should have been out.

I don’t hate it. But it’s not the way it’s supposed to look. It’s okay. I’ll get over it – especially when I’m sitting up in it. But for right now, it’s just a little, well, disappointing. Can’t blame anyone but ourselves, either. Rookie designers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Strange Fruit

Wasn't it supposed to be peaches in the summer time, apples in the fall?
Well, our apple trees are bare (should have harvested in August, amidst everything else, I supposed) and we have these:

Then, we beheld some low hanging fruit.

Loving these unexpected September treasures.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Roof

Oh yeah, and the windows...

Officially no room for anything else. That's okay. This week: framing the cupola! Darwin's hill, choosing shingle and siding colors.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Baby Essentials

I guess I’ve been thinking about this for my sister, but also for us with Part 2 on the way. So, sort of as a follow-up to the Diaper Diatribe, here is a list. (An extraordinarily long and verbose list.) There are lots of lists out there, to be sure. But based on our experience, these things worked for us.

First month essentials:
These are the things I think you should have in place before Peanut comes home.
  • Diapers! I have many thoughts on this, believe me. And I ramble on and on.
  • Washcloths (2 or 3) and baby towels (2 max). You can do the organic cotton route or specialty baby cloths or hooded baby towels. But these are also probably a dime a dozen at your local garage sale. Hooded towels are cute, so people like to get them for you. But you really don’t need more than 2 (1, actually). For the first few baths (especially for a winter baby, I think) you’re not really supposed to use soap and it’s supposedly unnecessary. We used Burt’s Bees baby shampoo and soap when it was time for a little sudsing. We also received some Weleda baby products (oil, lotion) which were lovely, but we didn’t use oil or lotion until Oliver was older or actually had dry skin.
  • Burp rags (maybe 7 or so?). You can use prefold diapers or cuts of flannel fabric or even kitchen towels or washcloths from around the house. But it’s kind of surprising how much comes back out of baby sometimes and it is actually quite good to have one of these laying around each room or permanently stuck to your shoulder.
  • Receiving blankets (probably only need 1, but 3 or more would be nice and you’ll probably receive 20 from family anyway). The best of these are square and flannel for ease of swaddling. Super stretchy cotton or fleece never held the swaddle as well for us. These are another item you can pick up cheaply at garage sales or thrift stores or just buy a couple yards of flannel and cut into 36” squares (or so) with pinking shears. We did use these for quite a lot of different things. This post has a pretty comprehensive list!
  • Sleep sacks (maybe 3 of them), sleep blankets (1 or 2), and/or snap leg jammies. Why? Well, the latest thinking is that newborns and infants should sleep on their back with no pillows, blankets, toys, anything in the crib or on the mattress with them. It’s for SIDS prevention. But in the winter, baby needs a little warmth, so a sleep blanket over a sleep sack or jammies worked pretty well for us. Plus we swaddled. For middle-of-the-night diaper changes, I preferred the snap crotch pants over the pull-up pants in a heartbeat.
  • Clothes. How many your peanut goes through in a day is going to vary. And what size?! Oliver probably wore 1 or 2 outfits/day for the first few weeks or maybe even a couple months. As he got older, teething and drooling and all kinds of stuff got clothes too boogered to keep on, so he went through more. But then we also started using cloth bibs (see below). O was a big kid, weighing in at 9 lbs, 5 oz and wore “newborn” size for less than a week. He was in 3 months clothes right away and stayed that way until about 3 months, when he went to 3-6 months. In addition to being big, he was cloth-diapered, which increases the plumpness of his rump and we tended to err on the side of larger clothes. (Plus, you’ll find that every manufacturer has slightly different sizes and that certainly contributes to clothing confusion.) We bought no clothes - that's what people like to get you, it seems.
  • Infant car seat (rear facing). We went with the model that has a carrier that comes out (the Baby Trend Flex Loc). That model ranked well with Consumer Reports at the time and wasn’t too expensive. We got a second base so we could switch between cars easily. Britax is a top car seat model and we did switch to Britax for our front facing car seats (after Oliver was a year old). [This is probably your only TRUE necessity because I think you’re not allowed to leave the hospital without one. Although, what if you’re walking home? Kind of auto-centric, isn’t it?]
  • One of those bear buntings. Well, this isn’t a need, but it’s probably a good idea for a winter baby. This is like a fleece onesie with a hood and mitts and booties all attached. We got ours from LL Bean, but I couldkn't find it on the website. I’ve seriously never seen them without bear ears on the hood. But anyway. If you put this on the kid and then put them in the car seat, it’s a lot easier than trying to bundle that fleece zip-up car seat cover thing over them.
  • Nursing supplies (such as a pump, milk storage bags, bottles, nipples, lanolin, nursing pads, nursing bra). I have really liked the Medela pump. We only used Medela bottles (BPA-free!) because it was very easy to just attach it to the breast cup and pump directly into the bottle. They’ve recently changed their nipples for the better (wider) but I think this tends to be a personal preference thing. There are so many different styles out there. We’ll be buying a new set of nipples for Part 2 and I’ll probably just go with the new Medela ones, but I’ll double check to see if any wider ones fit our bottles. Wider is supposedly better because it mimics the breast better. Also (I’m sure you’ll get this from any breastfeeding book or whatever) most folks don’t recommend introducing a bottle and/or pacifier until baby is about 4-6 weeks old. However, everyone has a different situation and I’m sure there are plenty of breastfed babies that were able to discern the difference (or just move past it) when the fake nipple was introduced earlier.
  • Food. Seriously. Kud talked about this and it’s a fabulous idea. Wish we did it! Pack your freezer full of good, easy, healthy meals that you can reheat quickly (casseroles, enchiladas, stew…). What if you asked for meals instead of shower gifts? Oh man would that makes those first couple weeks easier! I know folks don’t throw showers for 2nd babies, but if anyone asks if we need anything. I’m going to say “Lasagne”.
  • A plush blanket or quilt dedicated to baby for hanging out on the floor.
  • Snot sucker. You can buy one, or they may give you one at the hospital. The baby’s not good at doing very basic things yet and it turns out you have to suck the snot out of their noses. And they have snot. Officially called "nasal aspirator". Whatever.
  • A crib, mattress, sheets (2), and mattress cover (2) - or some other sleeping arrangements. We didn’t co-sleep. We tried for a while, but in the end, everyone did best in their own bed in their own rooms. We got a drop-side crib, which has come under fire for child safety. I guess you’ll have to make your own call on that one, but I am short and love the ability to lay the baby in the crib without waking them up (you know, by dropping them over the railing). I can lower our crib wall with one arm and a foot, so that I can do it while carrying the kid. Another option: a mattress on the floor.
  • A soft little hat. Infants have a hard time regulating their body temperature so a quick fix is a cotton knit cap. A winter baby could probably use a more substantial hat. Or a couple. This is a quick knit or easy sew (use an old t-shirt at the hem).
  • Noise cancelling earphones. Put these on when everyone is telling you what to do and giving advice for new parents.
First month niceties:
You may not need these things, but they sure are handy.
  • A baby book. We like the Sears’ Baby Book, but you may find another that you like. It’s important to have one of these around so you can spaz out when appropriate and calm yourself down when it turns out your concern is totally normal.
  • A baby bathtub. You can wash baby in anything (sink, washtub) but the convenience of a specially designed baby bathtub is pretty nice for the price. Turns out those little bodies are rather slippery when wet and the bathtub keeps them contained and doesn’t allow much water to collect in the bottom. Ours had a sling in it for use with newborns.
  • A rocker or glider or some comfy spot for nursing or rocking to sleep. We put ours in Oliver’s room, but anywhere where napping occurs would be dandy.
  • A black and white (preferably) or otherwise engaging mobile.
  • Changing pad and covers (2 covers will work – cotton terry or flannel is nice). We didn’t go the changing table route, but set ours on a dresser. The top drawers were diapers and clothes. You can certainly change baby on the floor with a burp cloth or prefold diaper underneath, but up high was easier on my back and allowed good access to supplies. We kept the wipes and accessories in an old bread box on top of the dresser.
  • Chariot with infant sling. Our preferred mode of transport. Get out of the house. It’s totally warm in there and baby will be comfy and happy and so will you. Of course you can get another stroller instead of or in addition to the Chariot, but the rain/wind cover, cozy seat, etc will encourage you to get out which is so needed mentally and physically. I can’t count how many friends (including us) who have said that sometimes the only thing that soothed a fussy baby was walking outside (instantly. Like, as soon as you walked out the door, crying over.) Get back on your skiis. The Chariot lets you! Or rather, encourages you, because you have to after paying all that money for the ski attachment.
  • Vibrating seat. You'll only use it for a few months, but I really liked it. It's a good place for baby to sit and look around when they aren’t good at doing it on their own yet. If you don't go fancy or natural (ie - garage sale style) go ahead and take the cheap plastic toys off of the crossbar. Replace them with some handmade ones, or none at all.
  • Boppy or nursing pillow and a nursing stool (mine was $8 at the consignment store). Not necessary, but nice if it fits. For me, it worked great for helping our positioning. For my neighbor, it was uncomfortable and constantly pushed baby out like a fruit pit. Something to think about.
  • Some kind of diaper bag that both partners are equally happy carrying. This doesn’t have to be a designated “diaper bag,” a lot of which are very feminine or cutesy. Any tote with some additional pockets will do. We got the Sherpani diaper bag because it was handy and pretty gender neutral, which turned out to be funny because I later read it was designed for “women, not unisex.” Ooops. We also received as a gift a diaper bag made from recycled bottles made by Fleurville, which we use daily for day care.
  • Baby blankets (maybe 2 or 3 for a winter baby). Great for the Chariot and placing over Jr. in the car seat and all that. Generally, I liked heavy cotton square ones best, but a variety is probably good.
  • Baby toiletry kit. Ours has a brush, comb, digital thermometer (ear), medicine dropper, and a nail clipper. We still use it.
  • Teethers. All natural ones are best, otherwise watch out for BPA in plastics. Soft wood, organic cotton, or something like that is nice. Cotton or (safe) plastic can be wetted and frozen for a double teething soother.
  • Grasping or other infant toys. Ideally this would be something not totally irritating to you, the parent. I really super like Haba’s grasping toys and rattles. Good for baby’s hands and development, easy on the eyes for Mama and Papa.
  • Some kind of baby carrier. These are highly personal, some swear by one and others will say it didn’t work at all for them. I think it depends on so much: baby disposition, baby size, wearer size, wearer activity… We have used 3: a ring sling that I made, a Baby Bjorn carrier, and an Ergo baby. Frankly, they’ve all had some advantages and I’ve preferred them over the others at different times. The Ergo Carrier is borrowed and I’m thinking I might like to get one for Part 2, but am having a hard time finding a used one cheap enough (they retail for $120 and sell for about $80 used). Others are the Moby wrap, Mei-Tei, Beco Baby… you name it. Since it’s hard to know what exactly you’ll prefer, it’d be great to try some or borrow some or get some used, but don’t go investing tons of money in this. Why should you even get a baby carrier? Because baby-wearing is a great new fad! Just jokin. Because sometimes your infant wants closeness and you still want to move and get things done and be mobile. We used ours for cooking, shopping, walks, cutting the grass… Oliver slept in there quite a bit and that was lovely.
  • Baby monitor. Generally, you’ll hear baby crying anyway, but this was great for heading outside while Oliver was napping inside. If you have a kids’ consignment store nearby, these are quite cheap.
  • A water repellent wool pad. We didn’t have one for Oliver, but I think I’d like one for Part 2 because a) it’s winter and wool rocks, and b) we’d have to wash the mattress pad/cover less. 
After 1 month niceties:
These are things that are nice to have, but can certainly wait.
  • Cloth bibs (you’ll want 7 or more depending on how often you’re doing Jr’s laundry). These are super easy to make and very handy when baby starts teething. O started teething around 3 months, even though the first tooth didn’t cut through until maybe 4 or 5 months. He’d soak through these in no time and we had a steady rotation going to keep him dry. Terrycloth, cotton, or flannel are great.
  • High chair. I think Oliver started using his around 5 months. We had him in it before we officially started foods, just as a place to kind of hang out with everyone. We got the Svan high chair and, though it’s pricey, we love it. It is: well designed, not ugly, adjustable, natural, and solidly built. Oliver has gone through many phases of meal messiness and I’m glad we have a high chair that pretty much handles the slop. We’ve had friends recommend against theirs because of gaps or holes or other things that make them hard to clean or contain goop.
  • Pack and Play. Yeah, they’re big and usually kind of ugly. But we got one and it allowed some good travel and hangout times before Oliver was crawling. It’s a great travel bed in accommodations that don’t have a crib (like, say, a Forest Service cabin).
What you probably don't need
  • Garish and loud baby toys. 1) Parents’ health and sanity is important here, too. 2) Baby’s play areas can be aesthetically pleasing to all. 3) Newborns don’t see that well and deal with contrast best, thus, black and white. 4) There is some evidence to show that toys that do everything for a kid (ie – overstimulate) decrease the kid’s ability to self-soothe and propensity for imaginative play.
  • Wipe warmer. We used warm water to wet our cloth wipes when it was brisk out.
  • Diaper genie. You’re cloth diapering, remember?
  • Bottle warmer. A bottle in a pyrex of hot water will warm up quite nicely.
  • Fancy crib ensemble. The pillow (that they can’t use), the curtains, the quilt (that is too nice to lay on the floor), the crib bumper (that is recommended against for SIDS), the sheets, and the stuffed toy all match. It’s a cute idea but expensive and they won’t match when one or another are in the laundry. I’d say skip it. Plain works and you can coordinate color without being matchy matchy.
  • Headbands or other gender designators. Have you seen the ring that leaves on the kid’s head?
  • Shoes. There is a debate about whether or not these are detrimental even after the kid starts walking. Despite their smallness and therefore cuteness, shoes are extraneous.
And Beyond:
The good news is that you’ll get into it and see what you like and what you don’t and whatever you decide will be what’s right for you. Some of our favorite places for kid’s stuff:
  • Garage Sales and Thrift Shops, duh. I like to look for vintage toys, books, flannel blankets, and clothes. We’ve found tons of Baby Gap in addition to Hanna Andersson, Children’s Place, Gymboree and other good quality kids clothes.
  • Hand-me-downs. We’ve gotten so much good stuff this way. Blankets and sheets and clothes and books. Despite how expensive kids’ stuff is to buy, there isn’t too much money in resale, so hand-me-downs pretty much rock.
  • Quality kids' consignment stores. More expensive than the thrift, but better than buying new.
  • Kate Quinn Organics (Soft and durable organic clothes. A splurge.)
  • Kangaroo Boo (A huge variety of toys from brands we like: Plan Toys, Haba, Selecta, Green Toys)
  • Uncommon Goods (unusual, recycled, organic and/or handmade gifts. Neat stuff.)
  • Nova Naturals and Rosie Hippo (I love to look here, but seriously haven't bought anything, yet.)
OK. That's it. Heaps of links, weak on pictures, rather wordy, but hope it's in time for your shower and remotely helpful. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Man, does framing move fast. I'm sure it will spoil us for the next phase.

See all those rooms in there? Fun fun. We can look through the windows, feel the space of the scullery, pop a squat and enjoy the view. Good stuff.