“You clean my butt please, Papi”

These days it is not surprising to hear this around our house. And it is said, not asked (hence no question mark). It emanates from the bathroom, echoing out of the open door in our sweet, two-and-a-half year old’s voice. Ahhh, the beauty of toilet training.

Sweetie has been diaper free since the 4th of July. We hit a point around mid-November where she stopped having “accidents”, pretty surprising given the excitement of the holidays. With the onset of the new year she was holding her pee through the night, not needing to use the bathroom until she woke up at her normal time. And last month Wife and I started waking up to find that Sweetie had taken herself to the bathroom while we slept.

I would love to say Wife and I could take all of the credit for Sweetie’s potty training. I mean, we did put in the time and the work. But we also had a little help, some guidance from a book called oh crap. potty training by Jamie Glowacki. Glowacki is a long-time social worker and a mother who has spent a lot of time de-mystifying potty training. She wrote and continues to refine a straightforward guide to getting your child out of diapers.

OCPT

Wife and I found many little bits of wisdom in oh crap. Glowacki breaks down the training process into easy to understand ideas that are also easy to implement. She writes in a familiar manner so the information is accessible, no where does she use a patronizing tone. And that’s refreshing since so many people weigh in on childcare and sometimes they can get downright militant.

I don’t want to put Glowacki on a pedestal nor claim that her book is the only viable resource for parents looking for potty training advice. So here are a couple of downsides. First, Glowacki shares a bunch of anecdotes. While this is nice for connecting with her, it really bulks up the book. So Wife read through and edited it down to an outline. Second, she does not commit to a time frame for your potty training adventure. At first she recommends committing a weekend. Then she suggests cancelling social activities for a week. That is amended by talking about 7-10 days of preliminary work. On so on. As I mentioned, we started July 4th, 2014, and I claim January 4th as our “results” date. Six months. Done (sort of). Honestly, I am learning that you can not put a concrete time frame on potty training, so I get it. Plus, I am not trying to sell books and keep readers from being disappointed. The point is that while oh crap has a couple of imperfections, we found it to be a useful resource and a beneficial tool.

If you are approaching the potty training stage check out oh crap. potty training (buy your copy here). Wade through the stories and put together a plan for liberating your little one from diapers. This book left Wife and I feeling all “we got this” as opposed to “what is this?”. Yeah, potty training has been work and it has required a time investment. But with kids, what isn’t? Good luck, we know you can do it too.

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Nana’s Zucchini Bars

Overall, Sweetie is a good eater. We struggle with food sometimes, but its more toddler power struggle than food aversion. We told her when she was born that Wife and I like good food and we like to eat. So if she was going to make it in our household, she too would have to eat well. Again, for the most part she does eat well.

I am always looking for ideas for meals, though. We have our go-to foods and it is just too easy to eat the same thing over and over. I think continuing to add to the variety helps keep Sweetie engaged with meals and away from boredom. Breakfast has been the most challenging meal for me to diversify. While Sweetie will kill a bowl of oatmeal with fruit, I just don’t feel right giving that to her seven days a week. So here is a recipe that we have seen some success serving to Sweetie.

The back story here is that my maternal grandmother, “Nana”, was the epitome of hospitality. Most grandmas are good at feeding their family but Nana took the blue ribbon. From sandwiches to baked goods to hot meals, you always ate well with her. Part of her legacy when she passed was her book of recipes. Sister Scales-of-Justice gave Wife a copy of the book for Christmas a couple of years back, so our household tries the recipes out every so often. I recently came across this one for Zucchini Bars and tested it on the family. The first time that I served the bars Sweetie ate them, but did not love them. I tweaked the recipe a bit and Sweetie ate one and a half bars in a sitting. I thought that was enough food interest to share. Given the ingredients, it was a surprise that Sweetie liked these bars at all(Okay, one time we had to give her some ketchup too).

Zucchini Bars – Ingredients

  • 3 cups zucchini thinly sliced. (3 medium-sized should do fine. I like to peel it and drop it into the food processor.)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped green pepper (optional)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic chopped fine (or ½ teaspoon garlic powder)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (and/or ½ teaspoon seasoned salt)
  • ½ teaspoon oregano leaves
  • 1 cup Bisquick mix (totally cheater, but yummy!)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 4 eggs slightly beaten
  • 3 Breakfast sausage patties browned and cut up (Not in the original, my addition)

Set oven to 350°. If using breakfast sausage patties, brown them in a pan. When done, set patties on a paper towel and plate to cool. Mix Bisquick, oil and eggs well. Cut up sausage patties and add those to the bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Spread in greased 9 x 13 pan and bake for 30-35 minutes (until lightly browned).

Like I said earlier, I tweaked this recipe for better results – please feel free to do the same. Try bacon, or turkey sausage. Don’t like zucchini? Wife and I are already talking about a broccoli and bacon version. The recipe is on the savory side and I think any changes that stay in that realm will be tasty. Another change that I made was with my pan. I did not use a 9 x 13 (sorry Nana) but instead used a brownie pan from Pampered Chef. That way we ended up with 12 bars already formed and ready to eat.

So fancy!

So fancy!

So try out Nana’s Zucchini Bars and let me know what you think in the comments section. I am currently looking for the recipe to make “Bisquick” so we can remove the prepackaged mix. Other than that, I think this is a fairly healthy recipe (I am not a nutritionist, but I am a biased grandson!). Also, please let me know if you have any breakfast food that your little one (specifically toddler) really digs on. As I mentioned, I am always looking for new good stuff to feed Sweetie. Enjoy!

 

Now that's pretty

Now that’s eatin’

More on cloth diapering

A while back I tried to write a post that de-mystified cloth diapering. Some readers, like Sister Scales-of-Justice (formerly known as Sister Older-Older) let me know that my explanation was a bit long (albeit thorough) and still left one feeling a bit confused. Fast forward to “now” where Wife and I are right back in newborn mode expecting Baby Garbanzo’s arrival. There is a bunch of cloth diaper cleaning and sorting going on in our house. To add to that, Brother Long-Arm-of-the-Law and his wife are expecting their first child in October. And they have committed to cloth diapering their imminent son. The following is an e-mail that we sent them detailing the products we used with Sweetie and will use with Garbanzo. I think the information is easier to digest and we included links!

“Online is probably the best for buying your supplies. The store that we attended a free cloth diaper class and purchased our first set of supplies was Cutie Poops and Bottoms (http://www.cutiepoopsandbottoms.com/) near Orland Square Mall. This store also offers “Diaper Trials” were you can try before you buy.

Cloth Diapers: Ultimately, we found that OsoCosy unbleached, Indian pre-folds (http://www.clothdiaper.com/cloth-diapers/Prefolds/Indian-Prefold-Diapers-Unbleached-dozen.html?gclid=CJ2X78OXm74CFchFMgod_2cARQ), used with a snappi (http://www.cutiepoopsandbottoms.com/Snappi-Diaper-Fastener-1-or-2pk_p_191.html) were the simplest and most effective diapers. Depending on how often you want to do laundry, for a newborn, we would recommend 36 pre-folds (infant size) if you want to do laundry every other day, or 24 if you want to do laundry every day. Pre-folds come in a packet of 12.

Covers: Blueberry and GroVia proved to be our favorite brands of covers. They are well designed and stand up to wear and tear. We prefer the snaps closures over the Velcro because the Velcro dies over time. Look for the double gusset at the leg opening – this detail helps keep the poop and pee in.

We would recommend only a couple newborn size covers; they grow out of this size fairly quickly. Most of our covers are “one size” – you just use the snaps that size the diaper as needed.

Diaper Liners: we never bought the disposable diaper liners; we bought a packet of washable fleece liners but only used them a few times. If poop is a concern, we don’t think a liner is going to prevent much soiling, but the disposable liners may make it easier to dump the poop in the toilet*. Just remember: there is a chance the liner will stay clean, but the diaper will get loaded. There is also a chance the liner will get loaded and buried so you will have to add excavation to clean-up. Good segue into a diaper sprayer.

Diaper Sprayer: There are a variety of styles. (http://www.cutiepoopsandbottoms.com/FLO-Diaper-Sprayer_p_537.html) This handy guy is the hose we have attached to the side of our toilet. It connects to your existing plumbing. This guy will wash your poop and pee into the toilet so you don’t have to try to wipe it off the diaper. But you may want to keep your hand soap stocked up because life happens, especially in the toilet area. These days the sprayer has also proved handy for rinsing out Sweetie’s potty bowl.

Cloth Diaper Soap: We tried 3 different brands of cloth diaper “safe” soaps. EcoSprout worked fine but we used another brand (Funk Rock) to help with ammonia build-up (EcoSprout was started by a work-at-home Dad in Naperville). Funk Rock has a variety of lines based on your water type, much the same result as EcoSprout where we also used their ammonia-busting soap. We are currently using Charlie’s soap with good results, no extra ammonia busting and clean diapers. Downside to this brand is some babies get red bums (but not our “hard-ass”!).

Dryer Balls: will cut down on drying time (still expect two drying cycles); we use the wool kind but we’re sure that the plastic ones would work just as well.

Diaper Pailhttp://www.buschsystems.com/recycling-waste-container-bin-cart-products/odor-free-diaper-pail/ – Learn from our mistake, do not try to use a garbage can, not even a fancy one! Airflow in the diaper pail is a must to prevent ammonia build up. This brand has a “teddy bear cage” that holds a wonderful charcoal filter and a spot for deodorizing discs…well worth it. We recommend at least two diaper pail bags.

Cloth Wipes: Thirsties Fab Wipes are our favorite. They are super soft on one side and poop grabby on the other side (do the initial poop wipes with toilet paper). In the beginning we wet the wipe with warm water and used some EcoSprout Bottom Spray. Eventually we found that just using warm water was enough.

Wet Bags: We recommend at least three.

Cloth Diaper Safe Butt Balm: CJ’s BUTTer is our favorite. We recently discovered a variety of scents that are fun without being heavy on the perfumes. EcoSprout has a product too that worked okay, but we were sold on all of the natural goodness in the BUTTer.

Pocket, All-in-Ones and hybrids: meh. We found one (1) Velcro-closure, one-size, pocket-style diaper was useful for pediatrician visits. If you don’t want to buy separate inserts just use a pre-fold in the pocket. Doc liked the ease of Velcro; we liked keeping Sweetie in cloth for visits. Otherwise these were too much for our use, again a pre-fold and a cover does the job well.”

This is from our cloth diapering experience so far. I know the interwebs has all sorts of additional information and opinions out there and that can often complicate the cloth diapering option. Hopefully this simplifies things and helps you get started. From there, I say do what works for you and feels the best while giving you the best results. Cloth diapering is just another option with its own things to get used to, so don’t over think it. Good luck.

* A random tangent here, and my favorite overlooked diaper factoid. Many disposable diaper users ask how we deal with poop. We put it in the toilet, where poop goes, (not the garbage can). All of the folks using disposable diapers for “easy poop clean up” need to read the packaging, specifically where it states to remove poop from a diaper prior to disposing.

A happy butt makes for a happy baby

Two-part post here folks, and no pictures of Sweetie to be had. So sorry about that, but I felt like I haven’t spoken about the tools in the D-3 toolbox for a while. Just want to let you all know about a great product that we use, and where to get some.

So we all have to deal with diapers and that means dealing with butts. Sometimes that means a chapped heiny or possibly even some angry cheeks (hopefully nothing too extreme though!). We have tried a couple of different butt balms with Sweetie with mixed results. There are limitations since many products are not compatible with cloth diapers. We started with a particular balm and it was okay. For the most part, Sweetie’s butt was fine. It wasn’t impressive, it just was. One day when we were shopping we overheard a store employee gushing about this particular product. Besides being some magical balm that would keep any rear end safe and supple, it was also cloth diaper friendly. So we decide to try out CJ’s BUTTer. We’ve been with it for a year now and think it’s great.

Butter

Tub and travel tube

CJ’s is made from all natural stuff. Shea butter and stuff like that. We’ve been so happy with it that I read the label once and didn’t double-check the ingredients.We started using it around the 8 month mark and it remains our go-to butt balm. Sweetie’s butt is happy, so she is too. By “happy” I mean clean, free of irritation and healthy. Now nothing is perfect, and we have dealt with a red bum a couple of times. But red like chapped lips, not red like angry-bumpy-scary (internet pics of diaper rash are scary!).

Ironically, just as I was ready to push the “Publish” button, Momma Z handed me a travel tube of CJ’s BUTTer. Turns out they tried CJ’s with Linda and did not have a good result. Momma Z did tell me that Linda wears disposable diapers, and she did have a rash when they test drove the balm. Who knows why it wasn’t great for them? Just remember that nothing is perfect – if you try CJ’s and it doesn’t work well for your little one’s bum, then STOP. Don’t use it just cause the Flagman on the D-3 website said it’s magic.

So where do you get CJ’s BUTTer? Well, of course there is the interweb, where you can find anything you need. We support a locally owned and operated store called BellyBum Boutique. The owner of the store is a mother of three children, all with special needs. So she started a store that covered all of the interests in her life; cloth diapers, nursing, early childhood health, special educational needs. Check out their website for more details. The store is close to our music class, so it is easy to stop in to pick up supplies. Besides CJ’s, we also pick up diaper covers, soap and the occasional specialty item, like a bulldozer fork.

Dozer

 

So if you are near the Lincoln Square neighborhood, stop in the BellyBum Boutique to check it out. Get you some CJ’s BUTTer while you are there and make your little one’s butt a happy one. Enjoy!

Baby’s East, Sleep & Poop Journal

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Baby’s Eat, Sleep & Poop Journal is an easy-to-use tool for all parents. Wife and I have recommended it to parents-to-be, and I especially recommend it to stay-at-home Dads. The straight-forward name of this activity log sums up its purpose – it helps you track your baby’s eating, sleeping and pooping. The pages are laid out in well-labeled columns, starting with date and time. You organize the other entries according to the time they occur. The meals are tracked by nursing duration or bottle amount; the sleeping by “sleep” time and “wake” time; the movements by type, wet or poop. The opposite page is conveniently blank for making notes.

We started using our log on our first recovery day in the hospital and we quickly learned its importance. We weren’t allowed to leave the hospital until Sweetie had accomplished the three feats that are tracked in “BESPJ” (wow, like they planned that). We continued the log once we returned home and kept it up until around seven months.

So we learned in the hospital that this daily tracking started immediately. Go figure, it continued at the first pediatrician visit (on so far through the whole first years’ appointments). The journal has proven useful for these visits because this information is important in the wellness checks. Having the information about her feedings, like ounces and frequency, allow us to specifically answer the doctor’s questions and focus proactively on Sweetie’s milestones. And knowing she was having regular bowel movements kept us aware of her overall good health (oh goody). It has been settling to track this stuff but also to speak with the doctor and know we have the information right there.

So, why is this so important for a Stay-At-Home Dad? According to Sister Younger-Older, a Mom’s heartstrings are thick. Because of this, the simple question, “How was your day?” translates to so much more. There are questions behind that question: 1.) Did you feed my daughter?; 2.) Did my daughter poop (and did you clean her)?; and 3.) Did you keep my daughter on her sleep schedule? At our house we go through the checklist when Wife gets home and is hanging up her coat. It is very nice to have the answers ready to go and to get Wife caught up. All joking aside, tracking this information helps us keep Sweetie healthy, on track and moving to the next milestone. And the information is there so either Wife or myself can pick up the routine. The journal itself is ¼ the size of a sheet of paper, so it fits in a diaper bag or a jacket pocket. You don’t feel like you are lugging around a book.

Baby’s Eat, Sleep & Poop Journal lays the foundation for monitoring your child’s well-being (which parents try to track forever, right?). We got our copy as a shower gift, but we bought a second one after filling that first one. There are plenty of tracking journals out there, so chose one. This one has an easy to follow layout, is a good size and has useful note pages. This one worked for our family. Check them out at www.eatsleeppoop.com

Childbirth Class

I get to use my artistic freedom here.  A childbirth class does not focus on parenting or on being a stay-at-home Dad.  But the childbirth class that Wife and I took helped with our transition to parenthood and it is worth talking about.  It not only prepared us for Sweetie’s birth but also helped us develop our parenting attitudes.  The Bradley Method childbirth class that we attended was one of the first “tools” that we added to our parenting toolbox.

On the recommendation of a friend we sought out a birthing class in the Bradley Method.  In short, this is husband-coached natural childbirth.  The Bradley Method gives Dad more active roles during the pregnancy, labor and birthing experiences.  It promotes Dad’s involvement – no sitting on the sidelines.  The method also teaches parents about the changes in Mom’s body during the pregnancy as she prepares for labor and delivery.  Parents are empowered with the physiological and medical information so they are better prepared for the whole pregnancy and labor experience.

While the information on the Bradley Method is great, I think the dynamics of our particular class had more impact.  Our class was taught at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago by instructor Juli Walter Billings.  For 9 weeks we met for a 3 hour class to focus on Mom and the pregnancy and Dad’s role as support and coach.  Juli works as a doula, a lactation consultant, and most importantly, a mother.  She brought these combined experiences to the class in an honest and open way.  Juli worked to develop the participants into informed and active parents.  She set an environment that allowed the parents-to-be to relax and ingest all of the information, without feeling overwhelmed.  The most poignant part of Juli’s instruction was her motivation for teaching the classes.  She told us that she was not pushing a natural birth or demonizing the medical interventions, but rather she was working for Moms to have a birth experience free of trauma.  She stated her intentions clearly on more than one occasion.  This relieved anxiety about “getting it right” so we could focus on being informed and active in our birth experience.

The class also helped us align our attitudes for our pending parenthood.  We understood the pregnancy and birth better and we understood the changes in Wife’s body better.  This allowed us to shift more of our thoughts to the new baby.  Parents need a lifetime to learn about raising a child – it was nice to start thinking along those lines as soon as we could.  And I took lessons from the class with me as I returned home.

As my role shifted from work spouse to house spouse, I thought back to Juli’s class and her teaching style.  They were good motivations for the “tweaks” that I had to make.  She encouraged parents to be knowledgeable and active.  She presented good information in an accessible way.  She encouraged parents to arm themselves with this knowledge to better adjust to changes.  I absorbed these lessons as “keep digging”, “keep it simple” and “stay flexible”.  These basic things have helped me along this stay-at-home adventure.  Things happen with Sweetie where I don’t know how to handle them, so instead of getting worked up, I just dig up answers.  Entertaining Sweetie doesn’t require a bunch of fancy toys, it can be as easy as reading a book and just focusing a bit of attention on her.  And our plans change every day, sometimes by the hour.  While keeping a schedule is nice, flexibility is foremost.  These concepts seem like “the basics”, but our childbirth class aimed me in the right direction to develop them in to habits.

Obviously this post comes late for current stay-at-home Dads, but attending a childbirth class is a good idea for potential Dads, and really all would-be parents.  There is so much information available today that there is no excuse not to be an informed, active parent.  Apply the idea of the “informed consumer” to pregnancy, labor and birth.  Dads, don’t sit on the sidelines.  Following Juli’s lead, I won’t force the idea of a natural birth or speak negatively of medical procedures.  I will encourage attending a birth class, especially one in the Bradley Method.  Wife and I appreciate the insight we gained and we talk up our experience to friends and family.  We felt that our preparation was important for Sweetie’s birth, and we still see the benefits.  If you want to contact Juli to check on her class availability or her other services, check out her website at www.juliwalter.com.

Filling the Toolbox

My wife and I have found ourselves in all kinds of conversations about our baby gear. It seems natural for parents to compare the stuff in their diaper bags.  Given my background, this makes the most sense to talk of as our “toolboxes”.

I want to talk about the products and services that I have found helpful during my stay at home.  The floor is open for any suggestions and recommendations you may have out there.  There are great products all around us so let’s get the word out.