Thank you!

Thank you all so much for the heartfelt and really, really funny birthday wishes and links. I’ve looked at maybe 20% of them, and can’t stop laughing.

My younger son gave me perhaps the best present a mother of a 2 1/2-year-old could get: He refused to wear a diaper to drop his brother off at school, and stayed dry all day! Then he did the same thing yesterday! And wore regular cloth (not rubberized) training pants to drop-off this morning, too.

What if he potty trains himself, too, just like his brother did? It would almost make up for all the stretch marks.

Edited to add: OK, this almost made me pee my pants: Potty training manual (actually a flowchart)

The Take Yourself Seriously 60-Day Challenge

Today’s the day we start the Take Yourself Seriously 60-Day Challenge.

The rules are simple:

1. Choose three things that will make you a healthier person–physically, emotionally, spiritually–and do them for this 60-day period, from now through April 26.

2. If it’s the kind of thing you do every day (like drinking enough water), do it every day. If it’s the kind of thing you do less often (like exercising three times a week, or seeing a therapist once a week) do it at that frequency.

3. If you don’t do it one day, rub some dirt on it and keep going. The important thing is hanging in there through the end, not doing it perfectly every day.

4. If you realize one of the things you picked just isn’t going to work for your life, pick something else and switch. There’s no point in dragging yourself through something that doesn’t make sense just because you posted here that you would. This is for you, not for the internets at large.

5. Post your three things here today. Every day I’ll post a little check-in post, where you can keep a record of what you did the day before. If you want to post, post. If you don’t, don’t. Once a week I’ll post a longer post to discuss how it’s going.

6. No judging other people’s three things, but if you have info that could help them, please post it.

7. Have fun!

Now for my three things:

1. Asleep between 10 and 10:30 on weeknights.

2. Eat five servings of vegetables a day. Part of a bigger plan to eat better in general, but 5 vegetables is doable.

3. Coffee: I’ve been thinking about it, and really I just want to be more mindful of what I eat/drink. So no more free coffee at work. If I drink coffee it’s going to be fair trade or really delicious in some other way. And that afternoon "it’s three o’clock so let’s have coffee"? Nope–green tea. I hate green tea. I think I’m going to be drinking a lot of green tea.

They say it’s my birthday

Happy Birthday to me! (And to Johnny Cash.)

Would you like to give me a present? Please post a link (the comments should do it automatically if you just cut and paste from the browser URL window) to something funny.

Thanks for sharing my birthday. Here’s my present to you:

Please note the hair, glasses, and beard, as well as the dancing, especially at 1:14.

Reader call: Car seat rage

The other day I schlepped my cats and both boys almost a mile in the snow to the vet (uphill both ways), and wondered "Why don’t I live someplace where I can just have a car??" But then I got this email, and felt like a jerk for my car-free self-pity:

"Please help….my child hates being in a car seat and facing backwards. She’s only 7 month old, so turning the seat around is a long wait. She can manage if someone sits in the back with her, but if no one there she throws tantrums. I’ve tried toys, singing, holding her hand while driving, but nothing seems to work. this winter is extremely cold, and its impossible to walk outside for long periods of time, so the idea is to go to the mall. But with this problem its even harder to drive to the mall than slippery roads and cold wind blowing in our faces. Please suggest something that I can do to make her more content with not having someone next to her for 15min drive."

I can remember a 6-hour drive with a 6-week-old screaming almost the whole time. But that seems to have wiped my car seat rage memory. In previous posts on this topic people have suggested that the baby might be carsick facing backwards, and that that may be contributing a lot to her anger. I’m not sure what the solution would be. You could try the Sea Band wristlets. I’d walk into the health food store and ask if they had anything homeopathic (not herbal) to alleviate motion sickness and try that. You could try a remedy like dramamine, but some kids react badly to it.

Readers? Any other suggestions, either of ways to deal with the screaming or to stop motion sickness if that’s contributing to it?

Q&A: Toddler losing his latch?

Heather writes:

"I don’t think you’ve addressed this before, and I’m having a hard time finding any info elsewhere. I have to attend a conference this summer and will be gone for 6 days. My son, at that time, will be 18 months old. I don’t intend to wean before that time, and I don’t intend to take him with me. I was wondering how long it takes for a kid to "forget" how to nurse or how to get a proper latch. I intend to pump during that time to keep up my supply, but wonder if he may wean himself in 6 days (which I am sort of ambivalent about, but would probably be sadder than happier). I was also wondering if there are some "data points" on the lengths of time women have been gone from their babies at different ages and what the effect was on nursing."

I’m not sure if there is much info about toddlers losing their latches out there. I know when I weaned my first son (at 2 1/2 years+), after about a week my mom (the former La Leche League leader) said to me casually, "Oh, and you know at this age they just forget how to nurse if they haven’t done it in a few days."

Um, OK.

So I thought that might happen when I was away from my younger son for two nights when I went back to work when he was 22 months, but it didn’t–he just ramped the nursing waaaay up. (Seriously. He was down to once a day for maybe 5 minutes, and I thought we were almost through, but then I went away all day M-F and he picked up the nursing to 3-4 times a day for longer sessions. I thought he was literally never going to stop nursing, and I would have to eat my own words about "you won’t have to FedEx your kid bags of breastmilk at college." But then miraculously he just forgot to nurse for a few days in a row while we were at my mom’s a few months ago, and that was that.)

So I definitely think there’s an age at which they forget how to latch if they don’t do it for a few days. But I don’t know what that age is. In my experience, it’s somewhere between 22 and 34 months.

Anyone else have data points about toddlers losing their latch?

And does anyone want to share experience about being away from a baby or toddler and how it affected nursing? None of my work trips affected my son’s nursing, but he was between 22 and 30 months when I went away, and the trips were all 2-3 nights long.

I suspect that it’s as much about your child’s personality as anything else, but would love to hear others’ opinions on that, too.

Thanks, Erma

Today is Erma Bombeck’s birthday. For those who haven’t heard of her, Erma was an American writer. She started out as a newspaper writer, but got married and had three kids, and for a middle-class woman in Ohio in the ’50s, that was the end of a reporting career.

She couldn’t stop writing, though, and starting writing a "little" column called At Wit’s End for her local paper, talking about the light and dark sides of parenting. Her writing was self-deprecating and inclusive and funny. And other parents responded. In a year it was nationally syndicated, and eventually ran a few times a week in hundreds of newspapers. She went on to publish a dozen books of her collected columns.

I think Erma Bombeck was the mother of parenting blogs. Think about what you like about parent blogs–the not feeling alone, the not feeling like you’re the only one who sucks at it sometimes, the not feeling like it’s harder than you thought it would be–and realize that Erma did it first, by herself, with no comments section to help out. And she was funny. I mean, I sometimes crack myself up, but she was actually funny. Every column. For years and years in a row.

Spend a few minutes looking at the Erma Bombeck Online Museum. And then smile at another parent the next time you’re out.

Anyone up for a challenge?

Full disclosure: I’m typing this while licking peanut butter off the back of a spoon.

hope my post on the artificial sweeteners didn’t make anyone feel
judged. That certainly wasn’t my intention. It was more of a "first we
couldn’t drink regular soda because of the HFCS; now we can’t drink
diet; soon they won’t even let us drink water" grouse.

Did any of you guys see this article in The Onion this week (for those
of you not in the US, The Onion is a fake weekly newspaper): Study: Use
of Phrase ‘Don’t Skimp On The’ Linked to Heart Disease
Read it first, then read the rest of this post.

you read the whole Times article, the author of one of the studies did
bring up the idea that the study showed correlation, not causation.
(Which is why I didn’t specifically mention it–it was in the article).

But for me, at least, correlation or causation doesn’t make a difference in what I’m going to do with the information that there’s some kind of link, in terms of my own behavior.

I thought Catherine’s comment was brilliant. If artificial sweeteners cause metabolic changes, then obviously we should stop using them. But Catherine’s comment points out that it could just be a correlation, but that that still points to a problem, just a different one.

From a public health standpoint, I hope that it turns out that there isn’t a causal link, because it would mean that we’ve been effectively poisoning ourselves willingly for 20 years. But I actually think that a behavioral link (as Catherine put it) is more interesting to me, and I’m guessing to you.

Have you ever gone on a low-sugar or low-carb diet? You feel like
you are literally going to die of the cravings for the first week. And
sweet is such a cultural force. Witness the comments to my Valentine’s
Day rant, when people were outraged that I didn’t want my son to have
candy. (Which, again, I’m fine with candy, just not every week in
school. I’m all for Halloween and Easter as candy ground zeros, but
I resist candy just for the sake of candy, or as a boredom reliever.) It’s almost as if we’re
supposed to have something sweet and comforting in our mouths to help
us manage the stresses of daily life. And artificial sweet is so meaningless and disposable, so it doesn’t matter. Which is cool on one hand, but alienating on the other.

Did you guys read the Little House books? I’m thinking about the
scene in one of the middle books–Plum Creek, maybe–in which Ma gets
hold of some white sugar and makes some white cakes for Laura’s
birthday. And how special they were. I wonder what it would be like to
live without having sweet tastes at our disposal so easily.

So I was thinking about how useless all these musings were, and how they aren’t helping anyone, and then realized that we could actually all be helping each other. I believe, without a doubt, that the reason so many of us are so stressed and tired and stretched out and unhappy with ourselves is that we’re eating the typical Western diets and living the post-post-modern lifestyle.

So I’m going to propose a challenge. 60 days, starting next Wednesday, Feb 27 (so we have time to figure out what we’re going to do and to have a last hurrah) and running until April 26. Do three things to improve your health, whether that means giving something up (ahem, diet soda) or doing something new (ahem, T-Tapp Basic Workout Plus) and stick with it as well as you can during those 60 days.

Everyone who "finishes" will get some sort of prize, which I haven’t determined yet, and which will undoubtedly have no actual value. "Finishing" will mean that you’re still doing it on April 26 and haven’t given up, even if you slip up a bunch of times during those 60 days. Consistency, not perfection.

Here are some suggestions of things you could do to improve your health:

Switch out your coffee for green tea.
Stop drinking diet soda (or Crystal Light) and drink water instead.
Actually start drinking 64+ ounces of water a day.
Take Omega 3s every day.
Cut out refined sugar.
Switch from refined carbs to whole grains.
Start reading all labels and not using anything with high-fructose corn syrup.
Exercise for 15-25 minutes a day.
Start running (the 60-day Challenge will end just about the time all the summer 5Ks start). (Read’s DoctorMama’s post on how to start here.)
Take up T-Tapp (read Summer’s post on how to start here.)
Eat 5+ servings of vegetables every day.
Take the stairs every time.
Walk/bike to work.
Go to bed at a decent time.

Please suggest more in the comments. Next Wednesday on the official start, we can all post what our three things are going to be. (I know what mine will be already: Switch out my delicious, delicious coffee for green tea, eat 5+ servings of vegetables a day, and go to bed at 10 pm every night.)

Is anyone else interested in the challenge? Or is it going to be me doing it alone?

Q&A: fussy baby while nursing

N writes:

"My four month old and I got past the initial difficulty beginning nursing (pain, latch problems, mastitis, the usual suspects) and we were off to a really good start with the whole breastfeeding thing.  She is gaining well and healthy.  But she often does this thing at the breast that drives me crazy.  She kicks, screams and thrashes while nursing.  If I hold her where her feet can hit the back of the chair, she’ll kick against it, moving her whole body away from the breast while she’s latched on (not pleasant).   If I position her where her feet can’t kick against the chair, she’ll instead scream and whip her head back and forth while latched on (also not pleasant).  Taking this as a sign she’s not really hungry, I’ll take her off the breast, which is met with shrieks of protest.  Put her back on the breast, we get a repeat showing of Wrestlemania: Baby Edition.  It doesn’t seem to be a low supply issue as it’s always easy to express milk when she’s doing this, but I don’t really believe it’s that the let down is too strong for her either. Her older sister did this too when she was nursing, but this one is much worse about it.  I can’t quite figure out what’s going on here.  Any suggestions?  I’ve been stretched about as far as I can be – literally!"

Yeah, I remember this. I think it may be some kind of gastrointestinal growth spurt of some sort, but it was perplexing because there were no other symptoms of other gastric distress–no excess farting or crying 20 minutes after a feed (the classic symptom of a lactose intolerance) or anything like that. It sounds like you don’t ahve any of this other stuff either, just the donnybrook on the breast. I never did figure out what caused it, and it went away in about a month or so on its own.

In the meantime, what I did was try to put as much pressure on my son’s tummy as possible while he was nursing, and for whatever reason that seemed to work enough that he could finish an actual feed without going all Goodfellas on me.

The way I did it was by doing all my nursing (except for the middle-of-the-night nursing, which didn’t seem to bug him) reclining on the couch. I’d have him facing down on top of me, stretched across the length of my body, perpendicular to me. So we were a lowercase t, and I was the vertical line, and he was the horizontal line across me.

That meant that he was nursing face down, but he also had all his own body weight on his tummy on top of me.

I have no idea if this will work for your daughter, but it’s worth a try. Readers, can you offer up anything else that she can try if my tummy-pressure thing doesn’t do the trick?