Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Crazy, crazy magic (or babies choose their name)

For as long as I can remember I had known the name I wanted to give to my back then imaginary baby girl. When I met the boy, when we got serious, when we started talking about someday, maybe having kids, we talked about names and we both liked this name SO much that there was no question, that was going to be the name of our daughter, when we had one.

Well, it turns out, life doesn't work like that. For completely unpredictable reasons, a story that is not mine to tell, we were not able to use that name anymore. It has to do a bit with superstition and a lot with not causing unnecessary pain to relatives.

Anyhow, when I was pregnant we made a list of names we liked. At the time we were unsure as to whether or not we were going to use the name we had so long dreamed about, so we kept asking the baby to let us know what her name was. I would talk to the belly and play little games, asking her is your name Julie? Are you a Lena? If that is the case... kick hard now. I talked about all of this with Marcela, a dear friend who is also a very spiritual person. She told me her way of telling me her name was not going to be so straightforward, that maybe, while looking at a list of names, reading a book, looking at a magazine, her name would pop at me, that I, we, would just know.

When my waters broke and I was admitted at the hospital, we still did not know what name we'd choose. But as time was passing we talked about it and even though Mark wanted to use the original name, because a name is just a name, I wasn't so sure. So we agreed on one of our favorite names: Yulia, spelled with a Y to make the pronunciation easy for everyone (J is a soft sound  in English and Dutch, but a hard one in Spanish). The Italian handwriting Giulia made it clear, but we thought that would be complicated for those not familiar with it. So we took the Russian spelling, assuming a Y sound is soft pretty much everywhere.

In my father's side of the family there is a long tradition of using 2, most commonly 3 names; however on Mark's father's side they prefer to keep names simple and short. Mark's mom often talks about how she would have liked to give her sons double names, but it wasn't done, on Mark's dad insistence. We had decided to go for the simple way and choose only one name.

Well, this is where the story starts getting strange. Hours after Yu was born, her paternal grandfather (Mark's father, the one of the simple names) called to ask if we were going to give her a second name and sent us a full list of names in Maya and Nahuatl (native languages of Pre-columbine Mexico). There were many pretty names, but Alitzel  jumped at us. It was the first name on the list and the first time we both immediately agreed on a name. It went well with the name we had already chosen, and we loved the meaning: smiling girl (in Maya). It's funny because I was drawn to names that started with Ali (Alienor, Aline) or liked names that could be shortened to Lizzie or Lexi (Elizabeth, Alexandra). This is all funny because now we have both  the Ali part, and the Litzy part in the same name. Also, the second part of her name, Itzel, comes from  Ix-chel, tha Mayan goddess of love, fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, the moon (!!!), and medicine.

As if that was not special or crazy enough, this morning my sister sent me some photos. Once upon a time, in the summer of 2000, I was a 20-year-old girl who loved tulips (the Dutch's pride!)  and had her uncle take some photos of her. I remember those tulips , I remember crazy-me saying they represented my future kids and naming those flowers Diego and Lucía. Then, my parents printed one of the photos from the photoshoot and put it in a silver frame that we had received as a favor at the baptism of the daughter of some friends of the family (that I didn't even remember at all, until now). Look at what's engraved on the frame:

Her first name, Yulia, comes from latin and it means young (early?), youthful, Jove's child. It is also a Biblical name, associating Julia with curly hair (Scripture references:  Romans 16:15, Acts 27:1-3)

<<By birth a member of one of the great old homes in Rome, Julia was doubtless a member of the imperial court and therefore among the saints to be found in Caesar’s household. Perhaps she was the wife or sister of Philologus with whose name she is coupled. She is named among those to whom Paul sent a warm salutation. The extension of her name, Julius, implies, “curly-headed”>>*

And it's also of course the feminine version of one of my favorite authors, Julio Cortazar (who loved crazy coincidences!). So that's how Yulia Alitzel, our young laughing girl with culy hair got her name.
*All the women of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer. Zondervan. First published as 'The women of the Bible' in 1967.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Baby gear: choosing (and loving) our stroller

The first baby item that we thoroughly researched when preparing for baby Yu's arrival was her stroller. We went to the huge warehouses that stock all kinds of baby gear, knowing that everything was probably going to be overpriced, but with the intention of looking, feeling and playing with the objects.

It was still in those early, vulnerable days, before 20 weeks, when we couldn't believe this was finally happening. I guess it has to do with the fact that we love to go on walks so much that a stroller was the first thing we went looking for (it could have been anything).

We knew we wanted an all-terrain kind of stroller, one that would take parks, paved streets, the dunes. I'm not gonna lie, when we first saw them (and after hearing a couple of recommendations), the Bugaboos called our attention. Oh, and the Joolz, with their pretty details and high-quality personalized finishings. But, they were completely out of our budget. Also, when we played around trying to fold a Bugaboo it did not seem so intuitive. We didn't like the Stokke as it seemed unstable, with all the weight falling on one diagonal, and it did not have much space for carrying stuff around.

Anyhow, one of the most decisive factors was the big wheels, and so, it was a matter of elimination before we found our stroller. I insisted on having 4 wheels (not 3), for stability, and we wanted a travel system (with a babycot, car seat and bigger-child seat) all clickable to the same frame. We wanted a stroller that was strong and that would last a while, a stroller that would endure city trips and be practical for travel. Our candidates were the Mutsy Evo, the Koelstra Binque and the Maxi-Cosi Mura 3 or 4. The Koelstra looked really good, and I loved that it was available in a pretty jade green, but it was really hard to fold and it looked a bit flimsy, so we eliminated it.

In the end we went for the Maxi-Cosi Mura 4, as it ticked all of our requirements. As soon as I touched it I was kind of in love with it, it is very, very easy to fold, in just one movement. I loved the huge wheels that are easily replaceable and the quality is really good, with the price being in the middle-range. We were *almost* ready to get it new, I had already found a good discount online, when we decided, just in case, to check if we could get it second-hand. And yes, we found an offer, at a really good price, of an older version of the same stroller, good as new, clean, and in a beautiful Royal blue (well the color is called Atlantic). So we made an appointment, just to have a look. Had we gotten it new, we were going to get it in either Red or Brown. At that moment we didn't know if we were having a boy or a girl, but seeing how good of a deal it was and the great condition in which it had been kept, we decided to go for it. I specially love how some of the inside details are in a pretty turquoise blue.  And we really don't care about boy or girl colors... colors are for everyone.

We have been using it pretty much every day since Yu was allowed to see the world, and the more we use it, the more we love it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Changing patterns and confusing advice

 I haven't been reading much about 'the rules' or what babies are supposed to be doing or not doing at certain moments of development. Yes, my parent's got me 'The day-by-day baby book', because who am I kidding: I love guidelines, charts, and I have to know things. During pregnancy I read Pamela Druckerman's 'French children don't throw food', which I loved but that's about it. Mostly, we are following the advice from our pediatrician and baby physiotherapist. And I don't even want to look at online forums because people on the internet start screaming at each other pretty fast.

It used to be that baby Yu would sleep for 3 hours in a row (sometimes even more), waking up only to eat (and be changed). Our mornings used to be nice and calm and I knew that as soon as I finished breastfeeding, she would go to sleep, passed out on milk, with that cute look of drunken satisfaction that makes us smile so much. At least it used to be so for the best part of the day, before witching hour* starts sometime between 17:00 and 19:00, when she cries, and cries, and cries. And then she cries some more.

Well, lately  her pattern has been changing. Sometimes even-though she's finished her meal; even-though she clearly does not want to eat anymore; even-though she is clean and she has burped, she won't sleep. I can put her down on her crib, tell her soothing words like: "baby, now it's your time to sleep", sing lullabies, play white noise, pet her... and she will just stay wide awake. And sometimes she will cry because she is awake and she still won't sleep. Rocking her helps, but it's so confusing. The official advice, the one we are following, says that for her age (11 weeks, though, 1 month developmentally, considering her due date), she should be sleeping around 3 hours between feeds and that ideally, she should be back asleep within maximum 1h 30 minutes after we started her routine. At our last appointment the physiotherapist said we should not rock her. She has to learn to sleep all by herself. And I do, I want to teach her to be independent. And I hear in my mind the voices of Pamela Druckerman and all the French moms telling me not to pick her up. And I don't, not when she's making her little baby noises. But... if I wait until she screams, am I not teaching her that if she screams I will pick her up? That if she doesn't scream I will ignore her? That's not what I want to teach her. And I really don't know where she is in terms of her development. Some of the things she does correspond to her real age (10-11 weeks) and some others to the date from her due date (4 weeks and a half). And when people say things like: " I did so and so, and my kids turned out just fine", I feel judged, for trying to do things differently, for following advice, for trying to make my girl follow rules that are maybe not applicable to her. And when the professionals say things like: "it happens because you miss her cues", it makes me want to punch things, because I knew the kid wanted to sleep, and it's what I was trying to help her do, all along. I am starting to see she is her own person (obviously), with her own strong will, and she will sleep when she will and she'll stay awake and scream when she feels like doing so, regardless of whatever tactic I am trying to implement at that moment.
*We still don't know what that is. Is it colics? Is my milk-flow too fast? Do I have too little milk? Is she crying for sport? Is she overstimulated? Angry? Overwhelmed at the world? Does she need a new diaper? Is she in pain? Is she sleepy? Or hungry? Or tired? Or is it that she wants to have a rest and she can't? Is it trapped air? Does she have to regurgitate? Or burp? Or all those things at the same time? She seems to want to eat, but pulls herself away screaming. She wants to sleep, you see her yawn, and no matter what you do, she won't fall asleep until she will. All you can do is roll with it, go with the flow, hug her tight and walk around.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Books coming, books going.

 Snail mail is my favorite, and books are the best invention ever. So, naturally, #AOW bookswap season is always a source of joy.

But then, when it turns out that one of your close friends, who you actually met through blogging and playing photographic games, serendipitously happens to be your bookswapper, well, that's what I call magic.

I just opened a parcel that arrived yesterday and you should have seen my surprise when I opened the cardboard envelope and I found a navy blue package with a yellow ribbon, and then I read some Alice-in-Wonderland-style instructions.

At the beginning of the week I ordered 'The view from Castle Rock', by Alice Munro (last year's Nobel prize winner), the book I got assigned for Reading time by Lauren TM, and I was certain those were the contents of the package. But no, it was my #AOW bookwsap book! So special. Thanks so much! And nope, even though I picked it up a few times and I was this-close to buying it, I had always let it go, in favour of something else.

More coincidences... my AOW bookswap package is leaving the country today. I hope its recipient will like it.

Oh, and in case you are curious, these were my answers to the 'Very Special Questionnaire of Book Joy' (in Anna K's words). 
Q1. Hello! What is your name and whereabouts in the world are you?My name is Amanda and I am a Mexican-Swiss-British girl living in The Netherlands

Q2- Who is your favourite author?
Julio Cortazar, Milan Kundera, Herman Hesse 
Q3-What is your favourite book of all time and how would you describe it in three words?
Rayuela (Hopscotch, Julio Cortazar). Magic, Coincidences/Serendipity, Love-story-in-Paris.
Q4-What was the best book you read in 2012 - again, describe in 3 words?
  Storyteller, the life of Roald Dahl, by Donald Sturrock. Fun, Intriguing, Smart. I also enjoyed "French children don't throw food" by Pamela Druckerman.
Q5-What was your least favourite book you read in 2012 and why - in no more than 50 words?
  Why be happy when you could be normal, by Jeanette Winterson. This is actually a good book, beautifully written, great story, the title drew me hard. But I found it so absolutely sad (borderline depressive) that even if the end does get better and it is full with lessons about life, it left me with a bad taste of mouth. But then again that's art.
Q6- If you could only take 3 books to a desert island, what would they be?
 The chronicles of Narnia, Rayuela (Hopscotch), The fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, and.... Alice in Wonderland
Q7-What was your favourite book as a child?
Hans Christian Andersen-s fairy tales, I read the Chronicles of Narnia later, when I was around 12, and loved them too. I was also a big fan of "Crusade in Jeans" by Thea Beckman and "Microbe hunters" by Paul de Kruif.   
I just realized the last two books in that list were written by Dutch authors. And I ended up marrying a Dutch guy. Also, "Crusade in Jeans" was also a favorite book of Mark as a kid. Yet more coincidences. 
What are you reading right now? Do you have any recommendations? Would you like to play along and answer the questionnaire in the comments?

The Alice in Wonderland illustration is by Marjorie Torrie, found here. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

A couple of treats

Lately, I have been thinking about how becoming a mother has changed something fundamental in me. I am still trying to find the words, but Lauren and Bits and Peaces have expressed some of it quite well:
"Having a baby made me free. Free to say no, to say yes, to live directly in the moment. (...). I feel like I have a firm grip on what exactly is important and what is not."

" And then? Motherhood. I began to chafe against the role of being “the one” who goes to takes the baby to bed while everyone else stays up and enjoys themselves. I cringed at having to give up my own meal to take care of my baby.... The new me has no room for selfishness. Because, frankly, even though I didn’t feel like I could push him out, the truth is – I did. And even though the breastfeeding seemed inhumanely hard – it is now one of my favorite interactions with my baby. And even though I may not like being “the one” who does the majority of the work – I’m learning to do it. And the major difference is I am learning to do these things and be these things innately, minus the resentment or frustration." 
I have become efficient. I no longer worry about irrelevant things, procrastinate doing the dishes of the day until the last possible second before starting to cook again or lose inordinate amounts of time reading one article, after another, watching videos and pictures of cats.  But I get tired, and lack of sleep makes me very irritable and short-tempered. I particularly remember one evening, after we'd had visits, crying in Mark's arms about how I got to do all the work, all the time, and how it was everyone else who got to enjoy our baby, to hold her when she was calm and peaceful. It was my own particular drama about how everyone forgets the mom (and though I cringe as I write this down, and it is certainly not my proudest moment, the feeling is not unusual).

And then there was the day where a very dear aunt pretty much forced me to go out of the house without baby Yu, since she's been home with us, for the first time, for fun. She took us to the  Royal Theater Carré in Amsterdam, to watch a ballet on the beauty of life. It was hard. It meant I didn't get to breastfeed her for at least 2 feedings in a row... and I had ringing in my ears all the advice I'd read about how you should not ever use a bottle before 3 months. And I had to disconnect and release the bond and trust that everything was going to be fine, because she was in the best hands that she could be in (her dad's).

That's when I started feeling like my old, old self again. I got to dress up, wear a pretty blouse, read a book in the train. And just for fun I painted my nails coral and I wear stripey-sandals around the house, in my pretend summer.

This is a non-sponsored post part of the Give yourself a Raise campaign of Raise. (Raise is a new marketplace to buy and sell gift cards on the web.  With the extra money you can save on discount gift cards to your favorite brands, you can spend more on the things you love.) The campaign focuses on the importance of rewarding yourself for all the hard work you put in every day, of taking time out for you!  Whether it be something as simple as indulging in your favorite dessert, or buying a new pair of shoes...  

What are your favorite ways to treat yourself? Sometimes a book and a cup of tea can make all the difference. And I could spend hours and hours in a bookstore. Now if only I could learn how to do the Smokey-eye makeup...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cloth diapering: 7 weeks in

 Last time I wrote about cloth diapers, we were still undecided as to what we would do (whether to go for disposable diapers or something else) for the first couple of months  until she fits her Bumgenius Elementals*. After reading your advice  and researching a bit more, we decided to go for the simplest option, that would allow for some versatility as well: prefolds (also known as flats).

We went for 20 cotton prefolds in size small and 4 PUL covers**, all of which are supposed to fit her from 2.5 to 5.5 kg (from 5 to 12 lb). We also got 2 wet-bags (to put the dirty diapers in the diaper bag when going out), 2 mesh-laundry bags (for the diaper pail), 5 rolls of flushable stay-dry liners, 6 Snappis, some neutral-non-enzymatic powder detergent and a nappy bucket.

For now, we are folding the diapers using the origami fold, where most of the absorbancy is in the center all the way from the front to the back. It is quite easy: you fold the diaper in 4, then take a corner and 'pull' it to the other extreme, turn the diaper around and fold the remaining piece in three. Of course you wouldn't understand anything by reading my explanation. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is one:

 After we fold the diaper, we lay a flushable-liner square in the center of each diaper and voilà, they are ready to use. I thought folding and prepping the diapers was going to be lots of work, but it actually goes quite fast, it's something we do while watching TV or hanging out in the couch and talking.

As for the washing, it really does turn out that with a baby you are doing laundry all-the-time anyway, so it really isn't more work to throw them to the laundry every day and a half or so. Actually, in our specific case, it would be more work to walk out the house to empty the diaper pail, than it is to walk to the washing machine at the end of the hallway. We have a high-efficiency washing machine, that does not allow a soaking program, so we start with a cold rinse, then we do a hot wash cycle with 2 scoops of powder detergent and after that we put them in the dryer or, when the sun is shining like it has been in The Netherlands this last few days, we hang them in the balcony to air dry. The sun really does miracles. We have had a few stained diapers, but the star-closest-to-us bleaches everything and the diapers end up stark white, disinfected (UV light kills nasty germs) and ready to use. Afer about a month of using them though, even when they looked and smelled clean after washing and drying them, they started to smell really strong of ammonia as soon as she soaked them just a bit, so we stripped them (as advised by cottonbabies): again starting with a cold rinse, followed by a hot wash (90ºC) with a tablespoon of Dawn dishwasher detergent, and finally by a second hot-wash without detergent. It was like magic, they worked as new.

We are really, really happy with our cloth diapers so far. They contain the mess really well (we haven't experienced [yet] the famous, explosive, breastfeeding-poop blowouts) and we've only had leaks a few times, when we accidentally left a bit of fabric sticking out of the diaper cover, or when baby Yu slept really long (4.5 - 5 hrs) and the cotton could not absorb any more.We are still learning, so the times when we have gone out for the whole day we have used disposable diapers. Also, the first 25 days of her life, when she was at the hospital she was on disposable diapers the whole time.

We wash the  shells by hand once a day, or occasionally more often, when they are dirty or too moist,  but it is quite a fast process. She has not had a diaper rash (cross our fingers), but since we are using the stay-dry flushable liners we are allowed to use creams, and sometimes we use a little bit of white Vaseline on her bum. My mom did use cloth diapers (the terry type) with me and my brother (not my sister) and she says that diaper rash will inevitably happen to babies at one point or another regardless of the diaper (she used both types, disposables on my sis).

We decided to use the biodegradable paper liners that get thrown away in the toilet, as because of the way our toilet is built we could not install a sprayer and we like the principle that the paper lets pass the moisture so that the baby stays a bit drier than if it was sitting directly on its stools.

She is growing fast, so we are figuring out new ways of folding the diapers, and just very recently have started experimenting with the Kite fold, with a small piece of folded-cotton acting as an in-layer. This makes the whole thing quite bulky, so we are hoping to find some alternative folds that will be trimmer.

 Does anyone have any advice or experience?


*Pieces of Anna  wrote good overview on her experience using and taking care of the Bumgenius Elementals,

**We got the Rikki diaper covers from Mother-Ease, two in small and two extra-small in the "Oceans", "The Wetlands", "Rainforest" and "Asia" patterns. They work really well and they are super cute, I particularly love the turquoise one as it reminds me of Finding Nemo.

For those of you in The Netherlands, we got all of our diaper supplies at KaatjeKatoen, and we were impressed by the quality of the service. Before making our decision we visited one of their consultants, who are all over the country and provide free advice. She showed us the diapers and explained the different systems. She was also available to answer our questions by email all along. When we finally ordered the diapers got to us really fast (in a matter of three days). When I was researching I found another two shops that sell cloth diapers in Holland: Babybum and Bumaround, with more or less the same pricing. But Babybum was not able to offer advice at the moment we needed them and I only found out about Bumaround weeks after we had already made our decision, through an ad in a pamphlet that came in a goodie box.

Images of the diaper folds via Blueberry diapers. 

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