Pretty pretty glowing beach girl

Made this picture for a post I did over at ParentMap about having a “different” kind of kid. I love how the picture turned out, because it just exudes the glow and joy that is my 5-year-old daughter.

Top 5 Tips for Potty Training Your Toddler or Preschooler

1. Camp out in the bathroom naked with a loop of Dora on your iPad for 5-7 days.

2. Can you say, “dog crate”?

3. Wait until Kindergarten — the embarrassment of wearing diapers all day at 5 will be enough for them to train themselves!

4. Rent a hotel room for the duration of the training. The mess will be theirs, not yours.

5. If nothing else works, contract the job out. I hear potty training is going for pennies in China.

Ok. Kidding. I do have some more, uh, implementable tips for all you parents getting ready to potty train or already wrestling with your nonstop-pissing dragon child. These are gleaned from experience, of course. If you have any sure-fire advice of your own, we at Punkernoodle would love to hear it!

1. Start early. By this, I don’t mean trying to potty-learn your child at 5 months (although lots of parents report great success with elimination communication, a technique we’ll explore in a later post). What I mean is start early to make it normal. By the time your child is standing, you should have a small potty in every bathroom in your home (I don’t mean the child’s seat that attaches to the toilet; small kids need their own accessible, self-contained potty sized just for them). Put their potty on the floor next to the toilet. Encourage them to sit on the potty with their clothes on or off. Help them foster a relationship with their potty. Name it. Put stickers on it, whatever. Don’t badger them about “getting dirty” when they inevitably rub their hands all over the potty (teach them about germs, and always wash hands, but don’t paint the potty as a negative, icky thing).

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Judge: Firing for lactation not sex discrimination | Seattle Times Newspaper

Another wrench in the wheel for working mothers:

Living | Judge: Firing for lactation not sex discrimination | Seattle Times Newspaper.

What has your experience been as a breastfeeding, working mother?

Babies on Planes: Suck it Up

The breeder/non-breeder divide gaped widely today, as metaphorically wide as the gorge of the Grand Canyon as seen from 40,000 feet, when a friend’s co-workers complained, in the middle of the cubicle farm, about the apparent epidemic of babies on airplanes.

I won’t insult you with the entire litany of their bitching, which you probably know the gist of already (babies are loud — the loudest forces on Earth, more powerful that a 747 jet engine; babies do disgusting things like drink milk from breasts — oh the horror of having to see a little sliver of female flesh in this prude American culture of ours; etc. etc.)

I’ve heard this bogus argument before, the one where uppity, ultra clean childless people try to say that babies and their sloppy, overtired parents should be relegated to the barfy back rows of all flights or, better yet, their own planes. No doubt some of you have heard it too, or will see hints of it (especially during the  stressed-out holiday travel season) via dirty looks from polished travelers in all their 3-inch pumps and suits and self-righteous glory.

Seriously, some advice from a seasoned traveling parent: Don’t take this crap — it stinks worse that what’s in that diaper. How many times, sans child, have you had to sit next to A: A large person who spills over into your seat, B: A smelly person (think sweat, too much Brittney Spears perfume, that bag of Burger King goodness), or C: The ubiquitous sick person, coughing strep throat or tuberculosis right into your face? We’ve all had to make sacrifices in air travel, and my baby is not the least of what should be expected and accepted when you stuff two hundred people into a flying claustrophobic tube.

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More Classes!

Punkernoodle Baby is expanding its parent-approved Diaper 101 classes with Parent Trust for Washington in both the north and south ends of Seattle this coming year! Natalie’s next class is Sunday Dec. 18 at Northwest Hospital and still has a few spots left. Sign up here and come learn absolutely everything you need to know to diaper your baby healthfully, economically and in a non-wasteful, planet-friendly way. Parents in Natalie’s class always get every question answered and get to play with about a zillion different types and styles of modern cloth diapers. Join us! Punkernoodle also hopes to expand to the University of Washington soon, stay tuned!

And He Ate Bugs

There were probably precious few things that could have forced me to abandon my lazy summer ways and get back to blogging like I should. Mr. Punkernoodle eating bugs would be one of those things. And he did. And here I am.

That he ate bugs should come as no surprise to me. That he ate them voluntarily — meh, not shocking. That his ego was big enough as to make it impossible, on some manly score card of gross-activities-in-the-name-of-self-respect, to refuse eating bugs — that was a little unexpected.

Before I flog him, I should make a point of saying that his garden this year is impressive. It might even be his best yet. On our tiny city lot, he’s managed a carefully rotating and seasonally tiered bevy of produce: Several kinds of lettuce (early, middle, late and some varieties that somehow have been going now since spring); sweet peas; a field of strawberries that tasted so sweet and warm when you pulled them off their stems and popped them in your mouth that it was like dropping a spoonful of jam onto your tongue; tomatoes coming on any day in about 25 pots; cucumbers; beans, peppers, piles of basil and mint, chard; carrots that smell like sugar; a field of 20 potato plants in three varieties that will likely give us enough store to take us into Thanksgiving mashed potatoes and beyond; garlic; shallots; onions; rhubarb; blueberries; raspberries; plums. Surely there’s more I’m momentarily forgetting. Oh, right, the brocoli and cauliflower.

So the brocoli heads were bursting from their plants in round, jade-colored bouquets. We ate a few heads and had lots left to enjoy when, a few days ago, I noticed while preparing another skillful garden meal that there appeared to be a color variation among the little sprout tips at the very end of the brocoli. I’ll call them the buds since it’s really beyond me what the actual anatomical name for that part of the vegetable is. To be exact, some of those tips, I noticed, were more grayish in color, a little duller looking, than their jade neighbors.

Being historically a little food skittish and critter paranoid, I delved deeper into the brocoli head in order to quash my rising panic that there might be something living in there. What I found was that, in fact, there were some things living in there. Many things. Many gray, microscopic things that, when scrutinized really really closely, had round gray bodies and six legs each.

Shriek, cuss, rinse, spot more clusters of microscopic bugs, deem the whole fucking thing hopeless, toss  in compost, find another side dish. No big deal, these things happen when you grow your own food. They happen when you don’t grow your own food, only all evidence has been power-washed away by the time you drive up to the grocery store…

Fast forward to tonight. Menu: Italian chicken sausages, Israeli couscous, fresh sweet peas and carrots, and some just-picked brocoli and our first ready cauliflower. As Mr. Punkernoodle is washing the cauliflower — lovely white head with tight bud clusters  and a soft violet underhue (why does this sound pornographic?) — I glance over and notice a subtle shade of something suspicious. I lean in, peer closer with my eagle food eyes. Yes, they’re there. The gray bugs. I do a quick check of the brocoli head laying nearby on the counter in what now seems like a pool of guilt. Gray clumps, too.

It’s not just that there are bugs, I try to argue to Mr. P. These bugs, whatever the hell they are — probably something in the tic family — burrow deep within the bud tips and cluster around the underside of the brocoli florets in creepy, fuzzy, miniscule clumps. There are dozens of them, hundreds, burrowed in to the whole cauliflower and brocoli heads. They are impossible to extricate. You cannot rinse them all out, it is not within our human power.

I will try, Mr. Punkernoodle asserts. His fingers have tilled the earth. He has hand-watered his bounty for one hour and 17 minutes a day. He cannot give up these cabbages without a fight. He picks through the brocoli and cauliflower, sprays inside each tiny crevice. When he is done, I peer over to examine.

“They’re still there,” I say, and shrug. “I’m not eating those.”

“I am,” he says.

This is the part of the story where, as I type it, Mr. Punk looks over and says, “I just want to point out some basic facts here. Like, make sure you mention that I cooked it. I cooked it, you know? So that even if there was anything there” — like some giant leftover clumps of swarming gray bugs — “it was steamed away.”

So there we have it. Steamed bugs and sausage. He looked mighty satisfied after his supper, like he was ready to sow a field. Must have been the extra protein.

2 Cloth 101 classes!

Due to high demand, Punkernoodle Baby has two Cloth 101 classes for you this upcoming weekend.

In south Seattle on Saturday, April 16 is our class through the Parent Trust of Washington. This is a complete diaper education, including info on EC, resources and a helpful cost calculator sheet. Register here:

Sunday April 17th in our Ballard showroom we will teach the basics of cloth diapering to new and expectant parents. Email us at to reserve your spot!

Get Over It, Breast-Phobes

What are people so afraid of?

When I gave birth to Punkernoodle 2, our first daughter was 21 months old. She was almost still a baby herself. And though my first child was done breastfeeding by the time her baby sister arrived, she was just learning to raise “babies” of her own. Translation: Doll play had begun. And of course, with me sitting around breastfeeding her new baby sister 24-7, what did Punkernoodle 1 learn to do when it was time for her baby dolls to eat? That’s right. My girl didn’t think for a second to put a plastic bottle into her baby’s starving mouth. Of course not. She yanked up her shirt and smacked that doll onto her chest for some fresh-from-the-tap feeding. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world for her to feed her babies that way, because that’s what she saw Mom doing.

We encouraged this type of realistic domestic play, because in our house we believe children should be respected enough to be dealt real-world information when applicable. And the fact is, breastfeeding is the most natural, healthy, green and economical way to feed a child. If you are lucky enough to physically be able to breastfeed your child, you are just that — lucky. There is nothing shameful, embarrassing or sexualized about it. So am I a “lactivist?” Yeah, I suppose I am. When I was running around and my babies needed to eat, you can bet I parked myself at the Starbucks and, modestly but without shame or the need to hide, fed them. And I expect my girls to do the same when their dolls are wailing in starvation, too.

That’s why I don’t understand the controversy about a new breastfeeding baby doll. In our culture, where the over-sexualization of girls and women is a serious problem, where you can go to middle school playground and see kids looking like mini Cosmo-cover models, why is it dangerous to portray or refer to breasts doing what they are made to be doing? How is the act (real or pretend) of feeding a baby more perverted than a 12-year-old in a sequined thong sticking out of her low-rise jeans (or your newly literate 6-year-old having to read the headline “Make Your Man Moan With Pleasure” while waiting in the supermarket checkout line)?

What’s the big deal? It’s just a doll and some breasts-in-training. Get the hell over it, people.

The Stay-at-Home Agenda

I was cleaning out my home office this past weekend, which meant uncovering about 30 pounds of papers that have long since stopped being useful and were very overdue for the recycling box. Deep under a pile of scrap paper and old receipts, I dug out a planner from 2008. The book was pretty obnoxious – one of those yellow “mom planners” that someone had given me as a gift when I quit my full-time reporting job at The Seattle Times in the fall of 2008 to spend more time with my girls, who were 1 and 3 at the time. Even though the book was aesthetically offensive (a bottle of wine would have been just as appropriate, non?), I used it. I remember thinking that now that I was a “stay-at-home-mom” (whatever that meant, I wasn’t actually sure) I would need to be supremely organized about my mommy activities and duties.

I flipped through it again this weekend, sitting on the floor amid my pile of dead trees, and took a little trip down memory lane. Most interesting to me were the lists I found at the back of the planner. (I am embarrassed to admit to some of this, but I will because I think it speaks so directly to the often unspoken conflict many women, and some dads, too, face when they leave their “professional” career for the underpaid, health- and retirement-benefits-free job of full-time parenting. Like others who have made the shift, I was supremely conflicted.

So, the lists. On one planner page, I took notes on other parents I was meeting as I navigated my new life, landmarked by library story times and visits to Cupcake Royale. Having left behind my work friends, who were still dealing in deadlines and paychecks, I was fairly desperate to find a new club to belong to. The problem was that I couldn’t connect with a lot of parents I was meeting on the mommy circuit. In some cases, the alchemy just wasn’t right – if we had been cruising an online dating site, let’s just say our profiles wouldn’t have generated a match. In other cases, we were all so focused on wiping snotty noses and being the perfect mommies to our little darlings, we couldn’t relax (and ignore the kiddos for a few seconds) in order to get past the chit-chat about breastfeeding schedules and pediatrician picks in order to really get to know each other.

So I took notes, hoping I could filter out the friend potentials from the duds. On my list was “Melissa*– mom to twins Cruz and Carter, 18 mo., funny, cool red boots, likes wine tasting,” and “Liz* — graphic designer, nose ring, not married to baby daddy, lives Fremont,” and “Jenn* — LA transplant! Does yoga Tuesdays mornings + has babysitters!!” I ranked these moms by number (hello, junior high, anyone?!), trying to figure out who could become my new BFFs. Without new instant mommy friends, I worried, I would be a total failure and lonely to boot.

In my nervous new-stay-at-home-mom state, I desperately hoped those notes on the page would morph into my new de-facto daytime family, a replacement for my workplace network and a source of adult conversation that would prevent me from going crazy alone with my two toddlers.

Another list at the back of the ugly yellow planner outlined the possibilities for keeping us all busy, busy, busy: A full weekly schedule of park playground rankings, open indoor gym hours, story times, kid-friendly coffee shops and children’s theater shows. I red-tabbed these pages, the most important in my planner because they represented the promise that full-time parenting could be as diverse and fun as my working life had been. Without the scheduling options, I wouldn’t have anything to do, and my children would be wholly without stimulation, I figured. I had to validate my choice to leave my job by providing us with The Best Fun-Filled Schedule Ever.

I used the planner for about six months, grabbing for it often as soon as I woke up (to the sweet screams of my cranky/wet/hungry children) and sometimes one last time before I drifted wearily off to a temporary sleep. But gradually, the monthly calendars show more white space and less frantic, hopeful scribbles – not because we were sitting at home doing nothing, I remember, but because I slowly realized building a new life could not be done by marking notes in tiny paper boxes.

It’s been almost three years since I left the world of full-time office work. Most of the “friends” I made those first few months have faded away; we run into each other sometimes at the park or grocery store and exchange friendly chit-chat, but that’s about it. The few true friends I found are still there for the occasional lucky night when we can all escape for a girl’s night out, and these are the mothers I would count on the bring me soup when I get sick and pick up my daughter in a pinch if I am stranded. But most of us no longer have the time to while away every day at the park, worrying about how we will be judged against the “working” mommies in some nonexistent comparative contest. A lot of our kids are in preschool and, gasp, grade school now, and many of us have started new journeys onto different projects, jobs, experiments. We are mothers always, but we are following new passions, too, or thinking about how we can strike a different balance.

I tossed the yellow planner, saying a final goodbye to those innocent, angst-ridden notes about what I thought life as a stay-at-home mother would be like. With perspective, I’m glad to realize they didn’t come close to doing it justice.

*Names changed for the sake of those poor, oversimplified mothers.