Sunday, March 13, 2016

Green Parenting: Our Timeline to Early Potty Training

Okay, folks. Get ready for some serious potty talk.

My 19-month-old baby is now potty trained. I've been using a potty with her instead of full-time diapers since she was 10 weeks old. Was it lots of work? Yes. But I calculated that we've saved 4,000 disposable diapers and will save another 3,500 more by not potty training her at 3 years old.

My baby's diaper-free progress looked like the Dow Jones: lots of nervous ups and downs with a general upward trend. Then, last week, I noticed that I had no more laundry to wash. Baby wasn't having any more accidents! Not just a vague feeling, it was a concrete realization that my baby has learned this little adult-person behavior, just like she learned to use a fork or knock on my bedroom door. 

Going diaper-free is also known as "elimination communication" or "infant potty training." But those are misnomers because often there is no communication or training happening at all. I like the term "natural infant hygiene", but if you want to capture its true essence, call it "pretend you ran out of diapers during a snowstorm" and, occasionally, "total potty chaos."

Here's the timeline of our diaper-free adventure.

The Beginning: 10 Weeks

When my baby was 2 months old, I bought Andrea Olson's book "Go Diaper Free" and Ingrid Bauer's book "Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene." Then I announced it to my family: I'm going to go diaper free STARTING MONDAY.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Practically Wasting My Time

I just wasted two hours trying to get my baby to nap. The eye-rubbing and whining started at 10am. She's just now fallen asleep. It's noon. 

There are days when I waste my time slicing avocado and tomatoes for baby, only for her to spend half an hour flicking it all onto the floor. And evenings when I waste 10 minutes reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear to her on the potty, only for her to stand up and gleefully pee on the bath mat. 

When you're a parent, time gets weird. It takes on a value somewhere between gold and paper towels: it's extremely precious, yet you find yourself throwing away massive amounts of it, every day. If I added up all those little minutes of feeding, pottying, and putting baby to sleep, would I be horrified to know what I could have done with my life instead? I could have learned fluent Chinese! Invented a portable water-desalination system! Funded girls' education worldwide!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Minimal Baby Year One: The Things We Haven't Needed

We're raising our baby on a tight budget in a small apartment in a town where we don't know anyone. The result: a minimal baby. No space, no waste. And not a lot of gifts, which was fine with us.

I also avoid plastics in my home because I look at everything in terms of its end state: Where will it be in 200 years? What will it do to our health in the meantime? Committing to a low-plastic life takes more effort, but I've gotten into the habit and actually enjoy the look of my home with very few petroleum-based possessions.

Here is an illustrated list of what we haven't needed in our baby's first year, for anyone who is wondering if babies really need all that stuff. Special thanks to some Renaissance moms and their babies for demonstrating no-frills mothering.

1. Feeding the baby Vouet Virgin and Child
My baby refused to drink from the bottle on her own. It wasn't something I planned. I know that not every mother can breastfeed; this is just what we ended up doing. Also, I happen to be self-employed so I can arrange my work schedule around her feedings. What we saved in the process was a lot of clutter in the kitchen: bottles, formula and its accessories, and a sterilizer (which I don't believe in for a healthy, full-term baby anyway).

At 7 months, I introduced solid food using baby-led weaning, further saving us the expense of jarred baby food and (plastic) utensils.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Crimes Against The Cute, Part 2: Shame On Chinese Zoos

Alligator at Beijing Zoo.  
David Castor/wikimedia commons
Over the past few years, there have been sporadic reports on animal abuses at Chinese zoos. However, if you've ever visited one, then you know that a Chinese zoo in itself is animal abuse. 

Back in 1998, I visited a Chinese zoo in Chengdu. It gave me nightmares for weeks. Elephants and big cats were rocking back in forth in their barren concrete enclosures, clearly suffering from "zoochosis". Monkeys sat in rotting metal cages, scratching themselves and masturbating until their skin was raw. Chinese visitors spat at the animals and threw packaged junk food into cages. Meanwhile, in the reptile exhibit, it was obvious that many animals were long dead. Their carcasses were already furry with mold.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The American Dream Of Not Being Here

In the next couple of years, my husband and I will have to decide whether to move to America or stay in Germany. If we move to America, we'd be in Berkeley, CA, where my family has its roots. 

But, even though Northern California ranks as one of the most desirable places in the United States, I have my hesitations. Because of one thing that I, as an American, just can't get over: America is ugly.

I don't mean the landscape; the amber waves of geographical eye candy turn every tourist into a hobby photographer. I don't mean the people, either. I mean that daily life in America is ugly, the drabness that we face because the little oases of architectural and civic beauty are choked off by parking lots and freeways. 

Take Berkeley, for instance. The legendary university town actually has a bayshore waterfront that boasts a million-dollar view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. If any European city were so blessed with this geography, without a doubt that waterfront would have been built into an appealing esplanade with cafes, boutiques, and tree-lined parks for the enjoyment of life. But we Americans? No. We built I-80 with 5 lanes of traffic in each direction. 

I-80 Eastshore Freeway/Minesweeper, wikimedia commons.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Because I'm Worth It


Throwing together a graphic is so much easier than writing an essay, I admit. That doesn't change the fact that I still want to put my longer thoughts into words. This is my black dog. I turned her into a L'Oréal model, because, well... she's worth it. She's so fabulous and I get to wake up to this lovely face every morning.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Breaking Baby Food

Food before one is just for motor coordination. 

That's been my discovery since I started my baby on baby-led-weaning, which is the alternative to spoon feeding baby food or puree. It's so exciting to watch that I can't imagine doing it any other way. Baby-led weaning (BLW) is "weaning" in the British sense of letting baby learn to feed herself, not necessarily stopping breastfeeding. BLW follows the natural pattern of what babies did for millennia before the baby food industry came along. 

And I see now that her grabbing for food at 5 months was the sign that she was ready to develop all sorts of motor skills for chewing, swallowing, speaking, moving the gag reflex back, protecting herself from choking, and using her fingers. Also, mashing her food with her tongue against the palate widens the mouth arch, making more space for future teeth to grow in.