Sunday, February 20, 2011


I debated if I even needed to include this as a topic. It seems so obvious that breastfeeding is best. There are millions of web pages that go into the research and it is commonly known so did I really need to add anything? Yet I think back to the questions I have been asked and my family being less than supportive all because of a lack of information so here's a post about breastfeeding.

I did all of my research and knew I would breastfeed before my twins were born. My family told me it would be too much work. This is a simple one to prove wrong. Breast milk is always the right temperature, sanitary, free, travels with you, etc. Formula requires bottles (and washing), going to the store ($$), mixing, and making it the right temperature. Breast feeding is not easy, but getting help from a lactation consultant will solve most problems and it's much cheaper/easier in the long run.

A friend asked how it would be possible to breast feed twins. I simply pointed out that I have two breasts. Yes, this is an oversimplification, but it is more than possible to breast feed twins. I learned all the tricks for increasing my supply and keeping it high.

Cuddle time

We had issues with breast feeding, but I knew I still wanted my kids to get all of the benefits of breast milk (less chance of obesity, increased immunity, higher IQs, lower risk of cancer, and on and on) so I pumped. Pumping is the worst of both worlds. You still have the bottles to wash, the cost of the pump, and it's less than comfortable. Pumping exclusively also tends to decrease your supply. I had to pump for 30 minutes every 3 hours with a hospital grade pump in order to keep up. Some days I would get a few ounces extra to freeze for later, but most days I was just keeping up. I spent 8 months sleeping an hour and a half at a time 3 times a day before I reached my breaking point. I had to cut back on the pumping and get just a bit more sleep. I was able to still give my kids breast milk every day for the first year. My original goal was 2 - 2.5 years, but my reality was only making it 1 year.

Tired is an understatement

I encourage anyone with questions to contact their local LLL or read on to learn more about breastfeeding and its benefits to children and women.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Art with babies

I love doing art with kids. I think it is important to use a variety of textures and materials. I prefer process over product art. However, this post is about starting at the beginning. We started doing art when the kids were around 3.5 months old. This was the point they could hold a marker and were learning how to control it.

 Yummy markers
Sitting in Bumbo to color

Many people are surprised that I start with markers. Most people assume starting with a crayon would be better since it is less messy. If you are trying to avoid mess when doing art with children, then you aren't doing it the way I would. Markers are typically larger than crayons (there are always exceptions) which make them easier to hold. They will also mark on paper with very little pressure. If you lightly drag a marker across the paper you get a line. Try it with a crayon and most of the time you get nothing. The bold larger lines/marks are easier for babies to see and make sense of as they experiment. Babies will also put everything in their mouth. Markers have no taste and if they put the marking side in their mouth, the worst that will happen is brightly colored poop. Crayons being made of wax, taste good to young children. If you give them something that tastes good and tell them not to eat it you are fighting a losing battle from the beginning. This is why we start with markers.

 Look! My paper is still clean, but my tray and brother needed some color.
Can you draw two different things simultaneously?

I encourage the kids to only color on the paper, however as you can see that isn't what usually happens. That's ok because it all wipes off easily. It washes off clothes and baby wipes will clean it up off most surfaces. We don't use markers on carpet or near furniture. The markers are not kept out at all times. They are only brought out when I am right there to supervise. This is more important once they become mobile, but until they learn not to color on carpet, they aren't left out. As babies, we did art at least twice most weeks. That increases as they get older and have more interest and more variety. Most of the time, I don't have photos of them doing art because it's difficult to supervise and take photos.

Marker on face, hands, arms, clothes, and some on the paper

One of the awesome moments of being a mom and/or teacher is seeing what a child is thinking when they finally get "it" - whatever "it" you are currently allowing them to explore. Here you can see my son as he realizes one end of the marker is special. He would touch it to the paper, pick it up to look closely at the paper, look back at the marker and try it again. After doing this multiple times, he started laughing. He tried using the other end and nothing happened, so he set it down and threw a fit (he was still a baby after all). I turned it back over for him and he started all over again.

Discovering how a marker works

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cloth Diapers

If you haven't read my disclaimer yet, this might be the time to do that...

After doing a great deal of research, we are using cloth diapers with our kids. There are many benefits including saving money, potty training earlier, no diaper rash, no full trash cans, less pollution in the land fills, etc. We never run out of diapers or have to go buy more. The laundry isn't bad. We store the diapers in a giant wet bag (15-20 gallon size). When the bag gets full we dump the entire thing in the washer, including the bag. Wash, dry and ours are ready to go. There's no sorting, folding, ironing, etc. It's one of the easiest loads of laundry we do.

The only diaper photo I can find. We called them both "little baby, big bum" for awhile.

Everyone asks about the smell. This was a huge concern of my husband's co-workers. They didn't want him coming to work wearing clothes that had been washed in the same machine as dirty diapers. My family was certain the entire room would stink because you can't put dirty diapers outside like disposables. Babies who are only fed breast milk don't have smelly poop. It's also not solid, so for the first 6 months their diapers went straight into the bag and could sit until we did laundry. Once we introduced solids the smells arrived. Most people don't realize that you are supposed to dump solid waste in the toilet even if you use disposables (it's written somewhere on the package if you look). For wet diapers, it's the same process as before. For those smelly diapers, we simply dump the poo in the toilet. When it's solid this is simple. When it's not solid, it takes a little more work. Some people use a diaper sprayer, we just use a baby wipe to push it into the toilet. Once you flush that, the smell is gone and the diaper goes in the bag. Their room doesn't smell and the clean diapers don't smell. Our other laundry also doesn't smell (we have had people outside our house verify this).

 Slightly bigger babies, still big bums - Notice the "come hither" pose from sweet son.

If you are picturing taking a large white piece of cotton, folding it into shape, pinning it, and then putting a pair of plastic underwear on over it then you are about 15 years behind. There are many types of cloth diapers. They cover all price ranges and effort levels. We went with the ones that require the least effort. I'm only going to talk about the ones we are using because this is about how we are doing things, not a list of all options. :)  We are using Bum Genius All-in-One, One-Size, Organic with Snaps. The all-in-one means there isn't an insert. No separating, stuffing, folding, etc. The one-size they say fits kids from 7-35 pounds. Our kids were right at 5 pounds when we started using them and they worked. We chose the organic because when we bought they were the only ones that came with snaps. The other option is Velcro and kids learn how to take those off early. I had visions of my kids not being able to undo the snaps and wearing their diapers. Turns out my kids have used this as an opportunity to increase their fine motor skills. I'm trying to make that sound better than finding poop smeared everywhere, but if you have read this far that's what you get.

Less than 7 pounds, but diapers still didn't leak.

We purchased in bulk - 48 diapers. Otherwise known as 2 days with twin infants. As the babies have gotten older laundry doesn't happen as often. Also for the early potty training, my daughter first told me she wanted to go "pee-pee" when she was 14 months old. I laughed and put her on the potty. I was shocked when she actually did it. After just a few weeks, she was in underwear all the time. This was going beautifully until someone in our house put her in a diaper for 4 days and she regressed. She will still go on the potty for me though! On the other hand, my son was 16 months old before we convinced him not to wear the potty chair on his head, so what do I know?

Thursday, February 3, 2011


One of the more difficult things to expose the babies to are multicultural experiences. Most of our time is spent at home. When we do go out to the zoo, science (children's) museum, mommy and me classes, football games, etc the kids have limited exposure to cultures and most of the people attending look/act just like us. We made a point of living in a neighborhood that is diverse, which will be great when the kids are older, but I didn't want to wait to introduce such important concepts.

Mommy and Me class

At home we have books with photos of many different cultures - race, non-traditional gender roles, people of varying ages, abilities, etc. We have puppets that also encompass many of these things. We let both of our kids play with all toys equally - trucks, kitchen, dolls, dress up clothes, tool box, and on and on. They do play with the toys differently, but that is because of their personalities, not their genders. These things are all normal and taken for granted. We don't see them as multicultural, we just see toys. However, with my kids growing up seeing the Hispanic Daddy in the book cooking, the African female soldier puppet, the child wearing glasses, and the Asian male teacher puppet, they grow up seeing all of this as normal. It should be normal, but it's difficult for me to show that to my children in my house. Let's face it - we are white. My husband works while I stay at home with the kids. We need to think about making sure our kids know there are many different types of people, many different types of families, jobs, abilities and they are all normal.

He's reading Brown Bear. She's reading Samolot Karola.

We also listen to a lot of different types of music. I can listen to typical children's music for a couple of hours a day maximum. Then I just become annoyed. We love Putumayo cds. I think we have about 1/2 of the children's cds they have produced. We also have a few of the adult ones. We sing along and dance and I don't become annoyed. Some are definitely better than others. We can even check some out from the library to see if we like them before buying. Other than our huge selection of Putumayo, we also have cds that are bilingual in French, Spanish, and Italian. We also have a cd that is entirely in  Polish. Because we sing along, my kids are getting the benefit of hearing the languages from a live speaker (remember the importance of this from my language post). I am certainly not fluent, but I can sing along with almost anything. The way our brains develop if you don't hear certain sounds before the age of 3, you will never be able to distinguish them. I'm trying my best to expose my children to most of the sounds in a variety of languages, which should help them learn those languages when they are older if they are interested.

Multicultural Books (no photos of music)

We also go to some cultural events, though I wish there were more closer to where we live. Hopefully this will get easier as the kids get older. While we don't eat out often, the two places we take the kids most of the time are the only Polish restaurant and the closest Mexican restaurant. Both involve native speakers and cultural food. Though we eat those two cuisines at least once a week at home, so I'm not sure we get credit for that!

 Traditional Polish dancers
Christmas Eve dinner for 2

As our kids get older we plan to do more, but this is what we accomplished from the beginning.