Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer reading

I am struggling a bit to keep up my reading habit. It is hard when I find myself constantly running to keep things pseudo-clean and pseudo-tidy and everyone fed and happy. Then, when there is some time left, I end up collapsing in the couch, taking naps to catch up on sleep or doing laundry or going out for walks or running errands. But reading is important for me, and I try to make the time for it. Switzerland was glorious, because I was so relaxed that often I put the baby in the garden to play and took the time to read myself.

If you are looking for ideas, Lauren has set up the #Better in Real Life Reading List and there are often reviews coming up. From her list, I would definitely like to read "Truth & Beauty" by Ann Patchet, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingslover and maybe "The light between oceans" by M.L. Sedman, though I am torn about that last one, because it seems to be so, so sad. A while ago I read "Storyteller, the authorized biography of Roald Dahl" and actually loved it. I was fascinated by Roald Dahl's life (he was a spy and a pilot, he knew the likes of Walt Disney and Roosevelt) and I liked getting an insight on the inspiration behind his stories.

As someone who loves to read, and as a challenge to force myself to actually do it I decided to write a review for the BIRL reading list, and got assigned "The view from Castle Rock", by Alice Munro. I was really excited to have this book assigned. I’d heard Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013 and I had been wanting to read her. Part memoir, part fiction, part imagined what could-have been, this book is a collection of short stories, independent of each other, but actually linked together as they trace back a family’s history (Alice’s own) of a migration from Scotland in the eighteenth century to North America, ending up in Canada and detailing their adventure as they look for a better future in far away, unknown lands. It takes the reader from the Ettrick Valley near Edinburgh, through Newfoundland, to Chicago, Joliet, The Huron Valley, Ontario… It is the story of great grandmother’s and grandfather’s, of uncles, of lost-relatives as the times change until today. In case you missed it, my review and Shaelyn's and the discussion is here.

Other than that, I finally had the chance to finish reading "La amigdalitis de Tarzan", by Alfred Bryce Echenique, one of the books Zarawitta sent me for this year's #AOWbookswap. I really, really liked it. The books tells the story of a pair of friends / lovers that meet in their early 20's in Paris during the late 1960's and follows them and the circumstances that led them to not-end-up-together, through almost 30 years. But what's different is that the story is told through the letters they sent to each other through many international moves, across oceans and continents (though mostly between Europe and America). It talks about love, but also about Latin America, about being a young naive girl, about discovering the world, about being an artist, about repression and corruption, about staying pure and joyful in the most adverse of circumstances, as stated by one of the phrases that gets repeated over and over again in the book: "Experimentó la angustia y el dolor, pero nunca estuvo triste una mañana"*. The quote is supposed to be Hemingway, I believe it's from the Old Man and the Sea, but I am going crazy trying to find the original quote and I don't seem to be able. Anyone recognizes it?

I've also read Baby-led weaning, as we are going to more or less try that with baby Y. I say more or less, because I love cooking and I am also kind of into preparing purées. And I no longer subscribe to any parenting theory or technique that is so fundamentalist in their approach that proclaims that doing X or Y or Z is forbidden or else *whatever it is you are trying to do* will not work. I am excited though, to have her eat real foods, to experiment with colors, flavours and textures at her own pace.

What have you been reading? Any recommendations?

* This would translate as something like: "She experienced anguish and pain, but never was she sad one morning". (Though of course, being Hemingway, it must be written better).

Monday, August 18, 2014

An ode to cloth diapers

We have been using our precious Bumgenius Elementals since the end of May, when we were finally able to get them. And we couldn't be happier. They work really, really well. They don't leak, they contain all messes, they are very soft and gentle on baby's skin, they breathe, they are easy to use, they absorb a lot (they can even handle the whole night, at 7 months), they fit well, they are cute... They are everything we hoped they would be (and then some).

The some being that, as I had read, cloth diapers seem to protect babies against diaper rash. I can now say it from personal experience. I had never even seen a diaper rash, and I did not want to search the web for it, because looking for skin conditions on the internet is like jumping in a dark hole of grossness. And what you see can't be unseen. Well, when we were in Switzerland, we used disposable diapers (Pampers!!) for 11 days, as I was not going to always have access to a washing machine. On day 5 of using said diapers (which we used together with a Zinc Oxyde and lanolin ointment), I was shocked to discover what undoubtedly was a nappy rash on baby's bum. I started freaking out, because I did not know how to treat it and I was already using a cream that was supposed to help prevent it. I was also changing her diapers every 3-4 hours, as we normally do, so it's not like she had been sitting in chemicals for long periods of time.

After some research we decided to use Bepanthen (a cream that contains pro-vitamin B5) and, luckily, the rash went away. I also made sure to dry her bum really well and to let her be diaper-free for at least 5-10 minutes every day. It was like magic, the lesions disappeared in 2-3 days, then healed and completely went away.

We are back to using cloth diapers and her bum is soft and healthy again. After such an experience I just had to sing the praises of cloth diapers loud and high. We have only experienced the famous poop blowouts 3 times, and on each and every one of those times we were using disposable diapers.  I think this particular issue has to do with design, as the back of disposable diapers tends to be very flat, letting messes run up the back of the diaper.

Do you know any tricks / products to prevent or treat diaper rash?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

11 days of Swiss Summer

Last Monday we came back from a holiday visiting family and friends in Switzerland and it was just glorious. We finally took advantage of the air miles we had been saving for more than a couple of years and scored some award tickets yay! It was the second time baby Y. went on an airplane trip (though this time only for 1 hr. 30 min, flights), and she did great! She even fell asleep on both flights, turbines are the best kind of white noise, and the extra excitement of airports makes babies tired and ready to nap, I guess.

We walked around, we hung out in the garden, baby Y. met her little cousins, I had tons of time to read and take a dip in the Leman lake, we ate salads for lunch, we made jam, we took trains, had cheese and chocolate, took strolls, picked up wild blackberries and just generally enjoyed the perfect summer days (not too warm, breezy, and sometimes a refreshing rain).

I was lucky enough to meet and hang out with Bettiann (from the Swiss-Wife Style), it was nice to finally meet another blog-friend, someone whom I often think of and pray for. We went to an Italian trattoria and then shopping for a bright pink scarf.

The boy was with us only the first 3 days and I was rather afraid I was not going to be able to deal with Yu by myself. Normally, as soon as Mark comes home from work, I let him wash his hands and then hand the baby so I can do some stuff around the house (like cooking). She is often awake and happy at that time, but then she has to be toned back down to be ready to sleep for the night and that process sometimes involves some fussiness.

As we were on holidays I decided to attempt a more go-with-the-flow approach to her routine, allowing more flexibility. Some of her naps were shorter than usual, but she stole everyone's hearts with her smiles and playfulness and she was almost never difficult, for which I am grateful. It is amazing how much a few days away can do in terms of recharging your batteries.

What have you been up to?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Buscando tesoros

1. (La playa de la Haya) vista desde las alturas, 2. La hora del café (y las postales) en Leiden, 3. Banderas, 4. La Sombra (de una gaviota), 5. Tomados de la mano, 6. Estanque con un nido de Gallinula chlorops, 7. Juego de niños, 8. Una tienda bonita (la librería infantil "Alice in Wonderland"), 9. Un autobús en La Haya, 10. Un perro, 11. Un puesto de flores, 12. (3 molinos) al atardecer

Siento como si apenas haya sido hace unos meses cuando tomé la cámara por primera vez y salimos a caminar y a jugar el juego de Jackie, a buscar los doce tesoros que se escondían en la ciudad. Pero no, de eso ya hace 3 años, cuando este espacio-diario-lugar-de-desahogos-y-de-encuentros apenas estaba comenzando. Últimamente se me complica participar cada mes, por decidia, por falta de organización, por despistada. Hace un año empecé la búsqueda, pero sólo encontré dos tesoros. Este año me empeñé en encontrarlos todos y aqui están. Cada vez que encontraba un tesoro y escuchaba el sonido del obturador al cerrarse y encapsular una imagen la satisfacción y la alegría me llenaban. Me encanta este juego, porque me ha permitido conocer grandes amig(@)s y porque cada mes nos da una oportunidad de encontrar esos pequeñas instantes que encierran la felicidad. Y como ya hace 6 años que 'la vuelta al mundo' comenzó, el mural esta cada vez más grande y más lleno de momentos y de magia. 
It seems it was only yesterday that I played Treasure Hunt for "La vuelta al Mundo" for the first time, but that was already 3 years ago, when this place was only starting. Lately, it is difficult to find the time to go out and make the effort to play the game every month, but this time I was determined to find all the treasures and here they are. It was, again, so much fun to go around with the camera ready and my eyes and my senses alert, and such a satisfaction whenever I found a treasure and ticked it off the list. Here is the complete set, and here you can see the treasures found all over the world.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pregnancy weight and postpartum body

As girls, as women, it is difficult to talk about our bodies and all the complicated feelings we start harboring towards them as we grow up. It seems one of the biggest taboos is the postpartum body. Everyone seemed so shocked when Kate Middleton proudly showed her belly after giving birth and -oh surprise- she supposedly still looked a few months pregnant. As if by an act of pure magic, women are expected to go back to where they were as soon as the baby is popped out. Bodies are truly miraculous: to think that new beings can grow from what starts as a single cell; that these little wonders of nature can orchestrate their development, coordinate a whole set of new functions, from the synthesis of more than a liter of extra blood** to specifically cater the needs of the wee one, to the creation of a whole, brand new organ (the placenta), and so forth, it is all mind-blowing.

But to pretend or expect that all of these changes, changes that took approximately 10 months to take place, can revert immediately after an event that takes 12-24 hrs is nonsense.


When I was pregnant, I tracked and plotted my weight, for scientific curiosity and to keep a record of what was going on. As a point of comparison, I used an online application that gives you an estimate of an expected healthy pregnancy weight gain (within a range) based on your initial weight and height.  During the first months, the increase in weight was slow, you barely saw any difference. My clothes fit well until I was around 20 weeks pregnant when I finally gave in and started wearing the glorious, elastic maternity jeans. I did have a belly, but at the beginning it was not a round, typical pregnant belly. The last time I weighed myself was at 33 weeks, the day my waters broke and I was admitted at the hospital sometime around 4 a.m. By then I had already put 10 kg (22 lb). I think, had I reached full-term, I was probably going to put around 12 kg (26.5 lb).

33 weeks pregnant, 1 day postpartum, 1 week postpartum

 When I gave birth, I lost around 4 kg (baby Y. weighed 1.9 kg), and  my weight stayed that way for quite a while.  At around 8 weeks postpartum, a couple of weeks after the "official" 6-weeks recovery period, I had lost a further 3 kg, which means I still had around 3 kg. left.  At 12 weeks postpartum I was 1.5 kg above my pre-pregnancy weight. However, though, some of my pre-pregnancy pants (albeit elastic corduroys) fit almost straight away. I tried my most beloved pair of jeans at about 5 weeks post-partum. I was so determined to make sure they'd close that in doing so, I ripped the zipper.

2, 3 and 5 weeks postpartum respectively

But I think by around 3 months post-baby and after a trip to the tailor I started wearing them again. I had read stories of women who even when all of the pregnancy weight is gone end up with a different body shape. (This, by the way, is completely natural: bodies change with time, with continual exposition to hormonal cycles, with age related processes, with variations in metabolism). I certainly have a soft, curviness that wasn't there before, but I don't think my hips got wider after pregnancy and birth (probably because at 33, they had already done so).

Weeks 6, 10, 12 postpartum

This morning, 6 months and a half after baby Y's birth, I weighed myself and I am now 1.5 kg under my pre-pregnancy weight. I kind of suspected this because some clothes that used to fit just well are  starting to fall down my hips these last few weeks. I have the appetite of a trucker, I am taking  vitamins specifically designed for breastfeeding as well as lots of good fats and protein sources (plenty of avocados, chia seeds, full fat yoghurt, orange juice, eggs, beans, lentils, and red meat whenever I crave it).  I make sure I am eating enough. (But maybe I'm not?)  I credit breastfeeding for this apparent speed in my metabolism, though I still have to set myself up to start some kind of exercise routine to make my core stronger and to get some kind of semblance of fitness, even if such program takes place in the living room. Do you know of any good programs to follow? Preferably easy ones for a girl who has never been the sporty kind?

This weekend, 27 weeks postpartum. Note the flamingo obsession.

On a related note, have you heard of the 4th trimester bodies project? I think what this photographer is doing is amazing, empowering, and truly needed.

* First image via Elle Nederland
** Blood volume changes in normal pregnancy. Hytten F. Clin Haematol. 1985 Oct;14(3):601-12.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thinking about online security

A few weeks ago, rather accidentally, as the boy was looking for the website of a friend of his who's a photographer, we discovered that many, many posts of this blog had been stolen and posted in some random website. They took photos from the blog as well as arbitrary pieces of text (not complete posts, just some paragraphs here and there) and pasted them in several articles on a website. It seems to me that it was done by someone "playing" on wordpress, trying to learn how it works. There are of course no links back here, no way to comment on said blog, and no information about the "author". No email, nothing. We contacted the company hosting said website and we have had no answer. I do not know how to proceed from here. Some of the photos were just of museums and the things I cook or our city outings and such, but others were personal photos. I know I am naive, I knew this could happen at any moment, but I just trusted that almost no one was reading my ramblings and that those of you who were here, regularly, were here with good intentions (as I know you are).

As a result, I am a lot more wary of the things I share online, of what could happen. So, when I was contacted by SingleHop  (a provider of cloud hosting and IT infrastructure services), asking if I would like to write a post in collaboration with them about how to be safe online, mentioning the top 3 things I wouldn't ever share on the big wide internet, I agreed.
Three Pieces of Personal Information To Never Share Online

There are a lot of ways to share information about yourself on the Internet. Social media like Facebook and Twitter ask for a lot of this information during account creation. As we all know, this information is then displayed to anybody who stops by your page. Unfortunately, cyber crime is becoming more commonplace on the Internet. There is some information that should best be under limited sharing or never shared online to help keep you and your family safe. For instance:

Your Full Name and Birthdate
Both of these pieces of information should be kept off the Internet whenever possible. There are viruses that can target company servers that have your personal information stored in their database. Your full name and birthdate can be used to open up false accounts in your name. This is called identity theft. Identity theft can easily wreak havoc on your life, and it can take months or years to fix the damage it causes.

Your Home Address / Home town

There are many websites online that ask for your address as part of your membership creation. Once they have this information, they can do anything that they want with it. This can create situations where you're receiving mail advertisements from a company you've never heard of. While that may only be a nuisance, some of the mail that you receive could be a scam set up with the intent of stealing some piece of your financial information like your bank account or credit card number.

Your Real-time location
For a lot of people, posting where they are on Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare seems like a harmless way to tell friends and family what they're up to. However, this type of information can set you up to be the victim of crime. While you may only intend for friends and family to see your message, certain websites allow anyone who looks at your page to see what you posted by default. This means that your home could be burglarized because you're not there, or you could be kidnapped or attacked if you're out by yourself. These kinds of updates make it easier for criminals to act against you.

I truly feel this is important to share because it is easy to forget the scope of the Internet and what can happen when we post our information. The Internet is a great tool and resource for everybody, but, we often seem to forget, it is not without danger. We should study  privacy settings to make sure they are set up correctly on social media websites so that only the people you want viewing your posts are able to.

This is a non-sponsored post written in conjunction with SingleHop, a provider of cloud hosting and IT infrastructure services. They are based out of Chicago, IL, and pride themselves on their customer service. If you’d like to learn more about SingleHop and their products and services, check them out here.

I know a lot of this might seem obvious, we've heard these messages a million times, over and over again, and I feel a little bit silly posting stuff that everyone knows, yet, we can never be too careful. I guess I am still in shock at what happened, even if it seems harmless and spammy. Maybe I am paranoid, but now that we have a tiny one, the urge and need to protect her is extremely strong. I wish we could be more open and carefree, but I guess a bubble has been burst. 
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