Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why I'm glad I wore a sports bra today...

I don't know if it's related to the fever she had a couple weeks ago, but Tye has come down with a full blown summer cold.  She's so congested she can barely nurse, and sleeping is close to impossible unless we're sitting upright.  Of course, she's extra clingy, so finding time to type has been quite a challenge this week.  Right now, she's in the ring sling on my hip, tugging gently on my ponytail- though I'm sure that won't last too long, either.

There isn't much that can be done for an infant with a cold, or anyone of any age, for that matter- though an infant can't even take cold medicine and relies on clear nasal passages for eating.  However, there are things that can alleviate the symptoms, even if only temporarily.  These things have been extremely helpful this week in making Tye more comfortable:

  • We returned the cool mist humidifier to the bedroom.  I put some peppermint essential oil in the water to give it a little boost.
  • I put some Nature's Baby Organics Ah-Choo! Chest Rub on her feet under her socks (it really works!) and a tiny bit just under her nose..  It's the organic, non-petroleum version of Vick's VapoRub.  
  • I've used Badger Headache Soother, a peppermint and lavender scented balm, on my own chest, close to where Tye nurses, and on Tye's sinus areas.
  • We made a steam tent in our kitchen.  I put menthol, lavender, and peppermint essential oil bath salts along with some chamomile tea bags into our crock pot.  Once it was hot and steamy, I uncovered it.  Then I opened an umbrella and placed it over the crock pot, then threw a sheet over the umbrella.  When Tye was stuffy, we hid under the tent until she could breathe more easily, which worked beautifully.  (This would work with hot water off the stovetop, but I was too afraid my groggy middle-of-the-night self wouldn't be fast enough to keep Tye's little hands away from the hot pot, and the crock pot was already hot in the middle of the night, no waiting necessary.  It would also work with just one of the essential oils or just the chamomile tea.)
  • Tye and I bathed together before bed in a bath with peppermint essential oil bath salts.  We had a wonderful time together, splashing in the water, and the room filled with the scent of peppermint, helping to open up those airways.
  • When her congestion seemed to be too far out of reach to suction with the bulb syringe, I hand expressed some breast milk into a small bowl.  Then I used an eyedropper to squirt breastmilk into Tye's nose, then used the bulb syringe to suction her out again.  This was really effective, but by far Tye's least favorite activity on the list.  
  • Tye napped in one of the carriers so she could be upright and breathe more easily.  At night, we sleep (or try to, at least) propped up on pillows so Tye's head is upright.  
I know many moms swear that teething is accompanied by fevers and congestion, and I've thought many times this week that perhaps that's the source of this.  After all, I can feel Tye's first tooth just under the surface of her lower gums, and she's been chomping on her hands intensely.  I have to wonder if the teething causes these symptoms, or if maybe teething is related but not causal.  Maybe the teething lowers the immune system (fever or not), allowing room for illness to take hold, right as the child is putting more foreign objects in her mouth than ever before.  Either way, enough moms claim teething and fevers/congestion go hand-in-hand that I have to believe there's some kind of correlation.  Maybe that tooth is about ready to pop through finally.

I've been making sure Tye gets plenty of time outside even while she's under the weather, as long as she can stay cool and comfortable.  After a lovely morning walk through the Montrose Beach Bird Sanctuary with our Nature Babes Meetup group, I decided to stop on the way home at Home Depot to make copies of keys.  Tye was in the carrier, as always, just taking in the sights.  As I was browsing the gardening section on the way to the key desk, I thought my stomach felt a little more wet than the usual sweat Tye and I create under the carrier.  I thought, Oh no, did Tye's diaper leak some pee? and stuck my hand in the carrier to check. Hmm, that's weird, it's a little thick.  When did Tye spit up? (stomach dropping as I realize, before I even get my hand out of the carrier to see what is on my fingers...) Oh no! 

There's one other symptom that goes along with both teething and congestion that I didn't mention yet- drool.  And what does excess drool cause? Diarrhea.  So out we went, to the parking lot of Home Depot, where I stripped Tye down and used the last half package of wipes cleaning poop- from her, me, the carrier, the car...  And after I had Tye cleaned up and into her car seat, I stripped off my poop-covered shirt and drove us home.  Another peppermint bath for us tonight. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Angelic Organics Season Opener

Ines putting our stroller to use transporting veggies

Last week we received the first delivery of our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, also known as a farm share) from Angelic Organics.  We're splitting a box with Ines, Randall, and Marquise, and even sharing a box we barely made it through our produce the past week.  So far, most of our vegetables have been green- broccoli, kale, chard, scallions, zucchini, lettuce, scapes, basil, bok choy, oregano, and this week, kohlrabi, cauliflower, and beets, my favorite!  It's so much fun to open my fridge to see so much fresh, organic  produce waiting to be eaten.  I've dehydrated a good portion of it, my favorite being spinach using this recipe for raw spinach chips.    I'm going to juice a lot of this week's, since that's my preferred method for consuming things like beet greens and broccoli stems.  I also have plans to make zucchini noodles with pesto (shave the zucchini to make "noodles", sautee lightly).  I think part of the reason I like receiving our share so much each week is that it reminds me of Iron Chef with a box of secret ingredients.  

What are you making this week?  Any brilliant ideas for kohlrabi? 

By the way, if you're in the Chicago area, Angelic Organics still has 12 week shares available thanks to the beautiful growing season we're having here!  It's fun to think like a farmer and appreciate all our recent rain.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Baby Tye

Words by Tyler, sung repeatedly to the tune of "I'm Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee

I have a baby girl
Her name is Tye
She's so cute
She's the apple of my eye
I have a baby girl 
Her name is Tye
Mwah! Mwah! Mwah! Mwah! Mwah! (Giving kisses)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

To the new father, new grandfathers, new great grandfathers, and new uncles, happy Father's Day.  Tye is truly blessed to have so many wonderful men in her life.  And just remember, when Tye starts dating, you're going to be busy!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Milkin' Cookies

Brilliant!  Milkin' Cookies is an online bakery store that makes cookies, in flavors like oatmeal chocolate chip, that contain galactogogues- ingredients to increase breastmilk production.  A two-week supply of 14 cookies is $20.99, which is about what you'd pay for a cookie a day at a bakery.  These would be a thoughtful, unique gift for a new mom (as long as she doesn't have oversupply issues, that is), and a needed break from- or addition to- herbal galactogogue tea and tinctures.  Innovative product and great marketing!  

The website said the cookies are all natural and free of preservatives.  Curious as to what galactogogues were included, I checked the ingredients:

Ingredients:Oats, Butter, Whole Wheat Flour, Semi Sweet Chocolate, Brown Sugar, Sugar, Nutritional Yeast, Ground Flaxseed, Wheat Germ, Unsweetened Cocoa, Salt, Baking Soda

This looks like a regular recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, except with a few extra healthy ingredients.  Which got me to thinking- couldn't I make my own?  Sure enough, there's a recipe online for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies.  Making my own would allow me to use organic ingredients at a lower cost  If nothing else, they're a good excuse to eat a cookie!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Favorite- Creative Tshirts from Attached at the Hip

I recently found Attached at the Hip, a Tshirt site.  I love some of the Tshirts, like these designs (all available at Attached at the Hip).
My mama may be crunchy but my diapers aren't!
Granola Mommy
My favorite, though, is this pair for mama and baby:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When Tye Teeths

It's been a tough spell in Tye-land.  Yesterday morning, Tye couldn't sleep, despite wanting to finish her night, and she was up quite early.  Last night, Tye came down with a fever and barely slept at all.  With no other symptoms, I'm convinced this is a teething fever.  She spent most of the day today cuddled up to me, leaning her head on my chest sleepily, either in the carrier or in my arms.  She runs her tongue across her gums and then rubs her mouth with the back of her fist.  When Mico licks her, instead of laughing and watching him longingly as she normally does, she bursts into tears.  Our normally giggly, talkative, smiley girl is quiet and cranky sensitive.  

The whole process of teething seems so brutal to me.  A sharp, white sliver of enamel relentlessly cuts its way through soft skin, with no explanation.  What a horrible experience.  Here's hoping this is over soon!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ask Mama Em- Laundry

Hi MamaEm!
The question about hair products sparked this email! I'm expecting our first child in 7 weeks and am starting to look for all those last minute (aka actually useful, not another cute onesie!) items. I'm trying to find an organic/gentle laundry soap for all of his clothes/blankets etc. Do you have a brand you like? I'd love something that is somewhat easy to find as I don't really want to have to order online.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!
I love following your blog - just gets me more and more excited to meet our little one!
All my best,


Hi Sarah!  Congrats on your upcoming baby!  Pregnancy is such a magical time.  Hope you're still feeling well as you continue to count down the days.  You are so close!

I included some info on Charlie's laundry detergent hidden in my pre-baby post about diapers, but it's been quite a while since then.  I still love, love, love Charlie's!  I use the liquid detergent, but it comes in powder form.  I don't know where you're located, but you can find a retailer on their website.  I totally understand what you mean about not wanting to have to order it online, but one of the gallon bottles of this stuff lasts us months (we still have 3/4 left in our second bottle since we started using it in October- so I'd say it will last a family of 3, cloth diapering included, about 5 months!).  The cost of shipping will be more than made up for by the savings in product.  I did the math, and this is by far the cheapest option I've found.  I love it when the safest, most natural option is also the cheapest!

We don't use any fabric softener because it's so toxic, but we do use dryer balls.  They got us through a dry Chicago winter with minimal static, which impressed me.  I love that the Nellie's dryer balls have the option of scenting the laundry with natural lavender essential oil and nothing else, but we don't even keep our balls refilled.  Now that I've weaned myself off of super-scented soaps, the smell of clean laundry smells like just that- clean, unscented fabric.

Wishing you a joyful, quick birth!



Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy 7 months, Tye!

To Tye, at 7 months

Dear Tye,
As each week passes, you grow so much.  Just this past week, you almost mastered sitting up on your own, which allows you to engage in the world around you in all new ways.  You're reaching further for things, and as you figure out how to move towards those toys that are out of your reach, you'll be crawling before we know it.  

The past month was full of firsts for you- your first trip to the zoo, where you loved the jaguar and flamingos, but the other kids most; your first visit to the aquarium, where you watched the fish swim through the water, but were most excited by other children; your first swimming lesson with GG in her pool; your first babbled consonants, strings of b's and d's and g's; your first jog in the stroller; your first street festival with Mama and Daddy.  You have such a relaxed, easy-going personality that you accept all these new experiences with a smile, as if you've done this all before.  So often, the big "first" is actually ours, as we celebrate our first time doing something old with our new family, through new eyes.  

Today was another first, just in time to celebrate your 7 month birthday.  You took your first bath sitting up.  With your new motor skills and core strength, you splashed away, hitting the water with your open hands and kicking your legs back and forth.  You are truly a water baby.

When I hold you, you still feel tiny and fragile in my arms, and yet you take up a great deal more space now than ever before.  I promised myself once that I wouldn't forget what it was like to hold a newborn, as other moms exclaim they have when they see a tiny baby.  I wouldn't say I've forgotten, but you still feel so tiny to me that I have a new understanding of that phrase.  How can you be so small, but have been so much smaller in the past?  

These have been the best seven months of my life.  I love you, love you, love you, love you.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

BP Spills Coffee

Is anyone really surprised that BP was publicly underestimating the amount of oil spilled into the Gulf?  New reports are claiming twice as much oil as originally estimated may have escaped.

This video is so true, I had trouble laughing...

(Rated L for Language... but if you can get past one bad word, it's worth watching the rest.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Favorite- Here Come the Hawks!

All of Chicago is celebrating today as the Blackhawks parade through the city.  One reporter on Channel 7 estimated 2 million fans flooding the Loop.  In a city sometimes violently divided by baseball loyalties, a uniting Championship is certainly something worth cheering.  Some highlights: Bobby Hull, star of the 1961 Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks team, congratulating this year's champs; fans around Chicago celebrating everywhere; as we walked down the street with Tye in her jersey and Mico, overhearing a tell his girlfriend, "I don't know who's cuter, the dog or the baby in the jersey"; dancing with Tye to the Hawk's score song; and laughing at Tye's similarities to some of the players, including Duncan Keith, who lost 7 teeth and has been dubbed "ruthless and toothless," 

and Jonathan Toews, who shares the same complexion and lack of facial hair with Tye.
Chicago's Jonathan Toews chose a double-layered look for his first playoff beard. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

But since I can't leave you with those disturbing images, here's one to remember.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Teaching to Cook

The Chicago Tribune ran an article yesterday titled Make this recipe and call me in the morning: Doctors hope to fight obesity by teaching patients how to cook healthfully.  In it Janet Helm explains how Dr. David Eisenberg of Harvard Medical School is trying to teach doctors how to cook healthfully so they can, in turn, teach their patients to cook healthy meals.  I loved this excerpt: 

The definition of cooking has changed...  Now it's more likely to mean assembling and heating — and probably in the microwave, which has experienced a surge in popularity in the past few years, along with frozen foods.  For the first time, the lasagna eaten at home is more likely to be thawed from the freezer rather than made from scratch. If food doesn't come in a box with instructions, many people are just not sure what to do. 
While they may constantly hear about the virtues of fresh, whole and unprocessed food, and are told to eat more vegetables, whole grains and plant-based meals, people often feel ill-equipped to implement this advice. 
Even with the wildly popular television cooking shows, many people are not active in their own kitchens.  Has cooking become a spectator sport? 

I'm still left wondering, though- whose responsibility is it, really, to teach Americans how to cook?  I have a hard time believing that a program in which doctors diagnose, treat, and give cooking lessons during a ten minute appointment is going to be successful, especially without a sample kitchen in the exam room.  I'm all for treatments that include food over prescriptions and wish more doctors healed that way.  On the other hand, good doctors are a wealth of knowledge in their area of specialty, and I'm not sure I trust one to tell me how to bake a souffle- or even an egg.

So, to whom does the responsibility of teaching cooking skills belong?  

Is it our failing education system?  Home Economics classes have been cut along with music and arts classes in many school districts, or made optional, as it was in my high school.  

Is it the parents who don't cook?  Many individuals who cook would say they learned how growing up.  But in a world in which most families rely on at least two incomes, getting dinner on the table often means quick fixes and little real food preparation.  

Is it the Standard American Diet and the food system that supports it?  As seen in Food, Inc., a family living in poverty can eat fast food for less cost than fresh produce.  

Is it ultimately the responsibility of the individual to figure it out or figure out how to learn?  Sure, we can't all recreate the masterpieces on Top Chef, but following a show like Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals is fairly simple and reasonably healthy- especially when compared to fast food.  An even easier place to start would be Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade.  Cookbooks can be checked out at the local library for free.  There's even a Cooking Basics for Dummies book, with used editions available on for only $1.  

I am in agreement that knowledge is one of the main components holding Americans back in the battle for healthy eating (with cost being the other lead contributor).  I'm all about any program seeking to educate Americans and teach us how to cook healthy meals, especially if we can throw in some lessons on the benefits of local, organic produce.  I think we need to keep looking for a solution, though, and let the physicians do what they do best.  Until we educate the rest of America, they'll be busy dealing with the problems caused by poor diet.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Learning to Giggle

Some video of Tye giggling at Mico that has me cracking up.  By the way, what a great friend do we have that lets us bring over our baby and our dog when he cooks amazing meals for us?  Thanks, John!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ask Mama Em

Hey Em,
Love your blog! I wanted to ask if you have any preferences or recommendations for shampoos for either you or Tye that are organic or "better" :) Thanks, Zainab

Hi Zainab!  What a great compliment!  Thank you so very much.  I find it amazing that other people think my life and my thoughts are interesting enough to read about (besides my mom!).  

For Tye, we use California Baby Calming Shampoo & Bodywash.  I love the gentle, all-natural essential oils used to fragrance it.  The price seems expensive for such a small bottle, and I had a hard time putting out the money initially, but it's so super concentrated that I think it's worth it.  In six and a half months, we've barely made a dent in the bottle.  That could also be because we don't bathe Tye daily.  In fact, for her first six months, we only bathed her once every 5-7 days (making sure, of course, that her diaper area was well-cleaned between baths).  Babies that young don't get dirty, and frequent baths can irritate skin because they strip away the skin's natural protective oils.   We are constantly hearing people say that she has beautiful skin, so I think it worked well for Tye.  Now that it's summer, I'm sure she'll be needing more frequent baths- after swimming, sunscreen, dusty dirt, or just mama's sweat from being pressed together in the carrier (poor girl!).  

When Tye was first born, she had some dry skin, so we used California Baby Calming Everyday Lotion.  I don't know yet if Tye has sensitive skin, but she wasn't sensitive to anything in this gentle lotion, also scented gently with essential oils.  Tye doesn't need lotion any longer, but I've stolen this from her and use it almost daily I love it so much.  It's my absolute favorite for the gentle scent and thick but non-greasy texture.  I make sure I don't use anything on my skin that Tye shouldn't eat, and I trust this to pass that test.  I've only tried these two California Baby products, but I love both and I especially love the story of the creative mom behind the company.  

I'm in the middle of switching hair care products for myself right now.  I've been using Aveda products, which is the most natural of salon brands and free of parabens and sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates, but not organic and not as natural as I'd like.  I'm doing some research on the Skin Deep database (an awesome resource that ranks the toxicity of personal care products) to see which products are safest, but I'm finding it somewhat depressing!  That's how I learned that Aveda's signature "pure-fume" fragrance is actually not any safer than other conventional fragrances.  Bummer, since I love the way Aveda products smell!  Overall, Aveda scored decently (4s and 5s out of 10, 1 being safest and 10 the most toxic), but I'm still on a shampoo search.  I've heard of many women who "no-poo," meaning they use baking soda to shampoo and apple cider vinegar and water to rinse.  I'm curious, but nervous to try it, especially with sweaty workout hair.  

I'll let you know what hair care products I decide to test out.  I'm also always open to suggestions!  My hair is super fine, meaning each strand is very skinny but I have a lot of it, and the ends need a good deal of moisture because it's so long.  My roots, on the other hand, get sweaty after my runs and need a shampoo after workouts.  If I don't work out, I wash my hair every two or three days.  I will say, I'm going to try Tye's California Baby wash on my hair and see how it goes!  I already stole her lotion...

Thanks again for the note, and let me know what you think!



Do any of you readers have a solution to my haircare conundrum? Please don't be shy and help me out!  Thanks!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Tyler took some personal time off of work this past week to spend time with us and relax at home.  Our little staycation was such a great way to spend time together as a family that I'm super sad to have Monday fast approaching.  We went to the Lincoln Park Zoo, grilled out, watched the Blackhawks, became members at the Shedd Aquarium, took walks around our neighborhood, and enjoyed the weather at outdoor cafes in our neighborhood. Tyler wasn't the only one on vacation, either- I didn't fold the laundry all week, and Tyler woke up with Tye one morning to let me stay in bed.  Looking back, though, some of the best memories were just hanging out at home together, watching Tye in amazement.  What a great week together.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

On the Chicago River

Obama's administration and the EPA have called for Chicago to clean up the Chicago River, making it safe for recreational use.  In case you're not from Chicago, this is big news because the Chicago River has has long been more of a moving waste collection area than a body of water.  In 1900, engineers changed the direction of flow of the river to prevent sewage and waste from flowing into Lake Michigan, where drinking water is sourced.  Until the 1972 passage of the Clean Water Act, the river was treated as disposal by Chicago's industrial and shipping polluters.  The Chicago River has been largely exempt from all clean water standards, to the extent that sewage isn't even disinfected before being dumped into the river.  Of course, this call for clean up has received severely negative backlash from Chicago's industries and even Mayor Daley, who said the feds should "go swim in the Potomac."  

Chicago's movable bridges.  Image from

I, for one, am thrilled that someone is finally putting pressure on Illinois to clean up our act.  When our waste enters the Chicago River, it (much like our garbage) doesn't just go "away."  It goes into our river systems, diluted by Lake Michigan water, which lowers the Great Lakes water level.  For being such a "green" city, Chicago needs to make the Chicago River's health a higher priority.  We have a beautiful lakefront that attracts tourists, and our river could easily be an extension of the lakefront, drawing more sport and recreational users.  The eyesore, currently reputed as toxic and infamous for being dyed green each St.Patty's Day, could become another natural attraction in Illinois.  

The currently poor health of the river is no reason to ignore it.  Riverside industries have no right to destroy the river, even if their pollution has been overlooked for years.  I'm thrilled that the president's administration and EPA are forcing a long-overdue clean up of the river, because Daley obviously wouldn't initiate the change on his own.  My hope is that Tye and my grandchildren will be able to enjoy a beautiful Chicago River some day.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Recap

Tye attended her first Cubs game.  Since we aren't Cubs fans, Tye wore her Blackhawks jersey- and a pink hat to ensure proper gender identification.
We spent most of the weekend visiting Tyler's family, including celebrating his mom's birthday...
and lots of swimming in their pool.
At home, we took a walk along Lake Michigan before the morning fog burned off...
...and a trip to the zoo, where Tye watched the jaguar, a few monkeys, and the flamingos, but clearly preferred watching the other children.
Hope you all enjoyed your weekends as much as we did ours!


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