Kaspar and the cutie next door play some Toca Train
Bookworm. (Love.)
Although my New Year's resolutions included the easily-doable (already done!) item "get messy" -- a healthy and normal part of parenting young kids -- I also set a few organizational goals for our house in the coming year. Now that Kaspar's back in school after his forever-long holiday break, too, I feel like I've had my fill of messy for a while. Maybe it's the pregnancy talking, but there's a part of me that wants our home front CLEAN. Now. Asap. We do a pretty good job of keeping the house presentable -- we're not living amongst loads of clutter or anything like that -- but I can't ignore the dust-bunnies that are accumulating in the corners any longer... or the fact that our bedroom closet has been largely responsible for our generally-tidy-ish front, and is, as a result, full of the clutter we would otherwise be living amongst. The former problem will be solved next week when professional 'green cleaners' come and whip this place into sparkling-clean shape. The latter, I've decided, must be dealt with in advance of their arrival. Otherwise, it's bound to get worse. (As in, if I don't deal with the closet situation, I'll just throw more stuff in there to make way for the cleaners. Which is exactly what got me into this mess in the first place.)

Luckily, the up-side of facing the closet, which I have already bravely embarked on, has meant that another 2013 goal of mine is under way: to sort items out from my wardrobe that, for whatever reason, I never wear, and replace them with clothing I love. I know better than to buy a bunch of maternity clothes -- I lived in maxi dresses last time I was pregnant, and plan to take that approach again -- but I know how much I'll be looking forward to wearing 'real' clothing again post-baby, and I think it'll be fun to create a stylin', mix-and-match selection that suits my tastes as they stand now. Before I do, however, I need to get rid of a handful of clothes that I just never wear anymore, or never wore much in the first place, and I'd like to pass them on to others who'll love and wear them well. There's a great resale shop in town where I've bought some favorite items, but I know myself well enough at present (I'm exhausted) than to think I'll haul a bag of my own stuff up there any time soon. Instead, I'm hitting the internets with what promises to be an eclectic virtual yard sale of sorts, beginning with my barely-worn threads, and ending with a random assortment of lost-in-the-closet items like a hot stone massage kit (an aspirational purchase made before I enrolled in massage school) and Torchwood (whatever that is) Blu Rays (sent to me by a PR person back in New York... Never opened, never watched.)

Enter: Listia.com. Your virtual yard sale (some junk, occasional treasure) slash Burning Man (barter system, baby) slash eBay (let the bidding begin) slash Amazon (easily searchable)! Listing items is easy -- simply upload a photo, write a description, choose a shipping method and BAM, the people start bidding. Every item starts at a 'zero' value, but as other users bid on it -- by way of the number of 'credits' they're willing to 'pay', its value goes up. When the auction is over, the bidding ends, and the highest bidder's credits get transferred to the seller, who can then bid on other items on the site in the same way. You can either charge for shipping or not; items with free shipping generally sell for more credits, but, of course, then the seller must swallow the shipping cost. (I listed two items with a flat rate, which may in fact earn me a small profit for my time, and one with exact rate shipping, which I guess I'll determine at the point of sale.)

I'm excited to have discovered Listia.com; I recently disabled my Amazon account, as I felt the many boxes of goods that were arriving at my door could be purchased locally, not only fueling the local Austin economy, but also reducing the transportation-related pollution, and packaging waste, inherent in my Amazon habit. It was a good change; I've found a local, independent camera store for my SD cards, hit up local books shops for our books, and patronized the indy toy stores nearby; all three types of businesses desperately need in-person customers these days, and the service you get in local establishments like that just can't be beat, even via live chat help online. I've also purchased less, in general, because it takes more effort to buy stuff if I'm not doing it from my computer. And buying less, of course, has saved us some cash. Finally, I've been enjoying the wonders of eBay for certain items that I can find there for far less than retail cost, and often already-used but in 'like new' condition, meaning I'm a part of a large-scale re-use phenomenon, which is pretty awesome. But eBay charges users to list items, as I understand it, and I'm just not that committed to the process. Plus, I'm not sure anyone will actually buy my junk. Listia allows me to list and sell -- actually, trade -- risk-free, and thus saves my stuff from getting thrown away. This last point is actually really important to me; we're lucky, in America, that our trash is hidden -- if barely, beneath the ground -- from view, but trash and waste is a huge problem the world over. It's everywhere, and it's gross. We, as a species, need to find creative new ways to drastically reduce the amount of waste we produce. Listia.com gives us one of those ways. 

Wanna see my auctions? Click here, and here, and here! I'll be added more stuff as I get the hang of it. And I'll be on the lookout for select, useful baby items (we've long since given most of Kaspar's baby stuff away) to spend my credits on... so if you have some baby stuff kicking around that you're no longer using, list it up there and give me a shout! 

Listia.com has generously offered to gift 10,000 free credits (translation: free money!) upon an Alt-Mama giveaway winner, too! Simply register on Listia.com, and comment below with your Listia username, and one organizational tip or goal. I'll select a random winner on Wednesday, February 6. Have fun, and good luck!
I've been a little MIA on the blogging scene, both over at Parenting.com and here on Alt-Mama, since the New Year; you may have guessed from my not-so-subtle hints that hormonal things are happening which can explain my relative quiet. As in, I'm a little bit pregnant... about seven weeks. Yay! I'm excited, crazy-hungry, a bit nauseated, and tired; between massage brain and baby brain, there hasn't been a lot of writing going on. That being said, good writing (and reading, for y'all) awaits, as I'm going to be back on Parenting's Project Pregnancy blog -- where I documented all things pregnancy #1 back in 2009/2010 -- shortly. And I have fun things planned for Alt-Mama, too. So strap in. It's about to be bump-watch (plus nesting plus all-around prenatal par-tay) time. 
Houston, we have a (cute!) heartbeat.
I know I'm letting the secret out 'early,' but I'm okay with this. I actually didn't even know about the twelve week safety zone when I was pregnant with Kaspar; consequently, all of our friends and family knew we were knocked up by, like, four weeks. (As with this pregnancy, I got a positive test very early on.) Only then did someone at work gasp in alarm (pregnancy news spreads quickly) and tell me I could very well miscarry -- she said it just like that -- which sent me into a fit of nail-biting until the end of my first trimester, which, coincidentally, coincided exactly with my wedding day. Now, I know miscarriage is indeed common (20% of pregnancies... that's a lot), and in fact that woman at work who brought me up to speed had experienced a few more than a few miscarriages herself (she has since, through the wonders of modern medicine, delivered a healthy baby boy). But if my Kaspar-fetus survived wedding-planning stress -- which he obviously did -- I know for sure that the experts aren't lying when they say there's nothing one can or can't do to prevent a miscarriage from happening. Either the baby's gonna stick, or it's not. And while I of course feel deeply for mamas who've miscarried or had pregnancy-related difficulties (my own mom struggled with some of this), and I'm well aware it happens to perfectly healthy women all the time, I also try to bear in mind that the stories of multiple-miscarriages others have told me are not my story. I want to be excited, enjoy this first trimester, and -- above all else -- keep fear and 'what if's' at bay.

I believe every woman should handle early pregnancy, miscarriage, pregnancy-at-large and birth in whatever ways feel right to her. Each mama's stories are different, and our stories are deeply personal. So personally, while I feel a sense of community and empathy with all mamas everywhere, living our different lives and our different stories, I'm choosing to focus on positive stories for the purposes of pregnancy #2. I well remember the excitement of pregnancy, but also a certain tendency toward fearful pregnancy that pervades our culture, and is also often, if inadvertently, shared and spread among women ourselves. Whether we're scheduling our next 'screening' for some (barely) potential problem, or hearing other mamas tell of days-long, painful labors and emergency C-sections, it's easy to get caught up in an expectation that, at any moment, something might go wrong. Well you know what? It's not my first rodeo. And I know that, of course, something could go wrong. At any moment. It probably won't, but if it does, I can handle it, and I know I'll have the support and love of our family, our friends, and you good readers out there. In the meantime, tell me positive stories. I promise to tell positive stories, too.

I have a few things I could be afraid of during this pregnancy. I have a blood clot history, and therefore am classified as high-risk; I'd like to have a pretty hands-free pregnancy and a home birth -- a safe and wonderful option for low-risk pregnant women -- but instead I'm working with a wonderful doctor and a doula (TBA), and injecting myself with blood thinners every day. I did that last time, too. Unlike last time, I know what questions to ask and I know what I do and don't want in delivering my baby. As it turns out, I probably won't have to be induced, and I can probably have a natural birth in a hospital setting. So that's cool. The other thing that's nagging at the back of my mind is, obviously, a food allergy and eczema remix. What we went through with Kaspar was really hard for all of us. It took me a while to even consider the possibility of pregnancy again, knowing that a food-allergic baby #2 is indeed slightly more probable for us than for a family without allergies in the mix. But statistics, (positive) stories from other allergy mamas, and my doctor, have assured me that it's far from guaranteed our second baby will have any allergies at all. Doctors have no idea why, but many families have one kid with countless allergies, and other kids with none. And some studies show that eating nuts during pregnancy prevents food allergies, while other studies show the opposite. There's not a lot of rhyme or reason around this topic yet, and not a lot of knowledge. Even so, I'm going to avoid eating the major allergens during my second and third trimester, and I have an appointment scheduled with Kaspar's TCM doctor to see if there are some herbs I can take to help prevent any allergic issues in my baby. And if this baby does show symptoms similar to baby-Kaspar's, we'll know what we're dealing with, and we will be fine. 

Blood thinner injections. Yeehaw.
I am declaring this a Fear-Free Pregnancy, no matter what happens, and knowing full well that this is life, and sometimes -- in life -- shit goes down. I'm focusing on feeling awesome, and visualizing a happy, healthy me, and a happy, healthy baby. I'm drinking a lot of juice. And eating a lot of carnitas tacos. I'm dreaming up names. I'm bracing myself for two small kiddos, as my one small kiddo creeps up on turning three. Age two was far from terrible -- we had one week of difficulty, which was about the extent of it -- and was a piece of cake, I suspect, compared to what's in store. Kaspar is as joyful and animated as ever, but this age is, um, something. Everything that already took twice as long as it did now takes twice as long as that ("Kaspar, please climb into the car... Kaspar, please get into your car seat... Kaspar, please get in the car... Kaspar, please stop pressing the buttons on the door and climb into the car.... Kaspar-get-into-the-car..."), and Kaspar's constant questions reflect new layers of comprehension that often catch me unaware (yesterday: "If you like what than you should have put a ring on what?"). He hears everything, feels deeply, and talks and moves continuously. This is a fun stage -- this boy of mine is so loving and funny and sweet, it's amazing -- but I'm pretty much exhausted all the time, and it takes a lot to make me tired. I am excited, though, for the months to come, for baby time, and to watch my baby #1 grow into his role as big brother. 
What do you think about the twelve week safety zone, early pregnancy, and first trimester changes? How have your second (or third, etc.) pregnancies differed from your first? Suggestions on great pregnancy books for positive stories? What's essential in a good doula? (We'll be interviewing next week.) Thanks for joining our family on this journey!
 Christmas, over? Not if Kaspar has anything to say about it. 
Kaspar officially moved up to the Children's House at his Montessori school today. Off and running. There goes my baby.

(He actually overshot his new entrance and headed toward his old classroom just after I took this photo... he's a little confused, but excited. I'm an unexpectedly emotional mess.)
I have four very pregnant friends right now, and another who just had her baby! More on this soon (wink-wink), but I'm now more certain than ever that baby fever is indeed highly contagious. And although I kind of tapped out my creative Christmas gift stores doing up Kaspar's big present this year -- and am as a result yet to even send cards to our friends and fam (sorry, y'all, we'll get on the belated shipments soon) -- I just can't help myself when it comes to crafting handmade baby presents. 

Though far from an expert sewer, something about fun fabrics and pregnant pals just keeps calling me back to quilting. (Apologies to any grandmothers turning over in their graves right now at my use of that term in reference to my highly improvisational approach to this hobby.) Baby-size quilts, in particular, give me my mix-and-match color-infused fix, while remaining doable in scale; I haven't yet gotten into sewing to the extent that I find myself lost dreamily in the process, so thoroughly absorbed in the task at hand that I become one with all beings (etc.). Instead, I swear off another quilt every time I hit the half-way mark while making one, disliking the apparent need for attention to detail and the commitment it takes to see the project through. But baby quilts go pretty quickly, and I love them so much every time I get to the finish line that I continue hoarding fabric and planning for the next. In the case of this most recent project, I was so pleased with the final result that I had a hard time letting it go -- but I do (love-hate relationship with sewing or not) have at least one more quilt in me, and I'll make that soon enough. For all I know -- said I to myself -- these girly colors won't be appropriate to the occasion, anyway, so it's surely best to give this one to the beautiful baby girl it was intended for from the start. And of course I'm delighted to do so. I hope it keeps her warm on windy outings, and that she wiles away many a tummy time session examining its bold, contrasting hues.


So who is the little lady deluxe, you may be wondering? I'm sure her birth story will be coming soon; you'll be able to find it here on Parenting.com. (It promises to be GOOD, so keep an eye out.) Baby's mama, Melanie, has been blogging through her pregnancy on all manner of natural birth and beautiful nursery topic. Read up! Such great stuff. Knowing that Melanie's newest little is her one and only girl-baby to date, I decided to go all out and let the girly colors go wild in her quilt; I thought when I first picked up the pink leopard print that it might be too loud to ever really land front and center in, well, anything I made, but then it paired just perfectly with the almost lacey-looking Mexican skull print... so that was that. (The latter fabric gives it a bit of sass, too, no?) The darker accent fabric squares, which echo some of that bright pink (and bright in general) action, also provide somewhat neutralizing background colors to keep the whole thing grounded. The border and back are a shimmery, smooth blue-and-white gingham. I wasn't sure if that would work. You can't really see the shimmery-ness of it in the photos, but in person, it's pretty nice. I filled the quilt with an organic cotton batting, and will ship it off shortly to babycake and Mama.

For my next quilt, I plan to graduate to fabric shapes beyond squares and more squares. I'm on the lookout for inspiration, so please share any relevant links or ideas in the comments! In the meantime, here's hoping Melanie and her little love are pleased with this simple (squares and more squares), yet super-bright baby blanket. Made with love by me. Because the second most satisfying thing to cooing over a new baby in person is sending something soft for her family to wrap her in. 

Do you like it? What are you making these days? Link me to some cute baby quilts I can draw inspiration (if not derive perfection) from!
We don't eat much processed or pre-packaged food around here, save -- until recently -- for those genius little organic pureed fruit and veg pouches that can be purchased at pretty much any grocery store nationwide. In fact, every time Kaspar and I go to the grocery store -- until recently, that is -- we make a deal that he keeps his cool while I shop, and, as a reward, he receives a "fruit squeezie" once we hit the baby stuff aisle. I like that these pouches pack a little nutritional punch (fruits, veg and chia seeds? Cool!), so my kid sucks down a dose of nutrients while under the impression he's receiving a treat. I also like that I can easily throw a pouch (or five) into my purse for days out on the town, or even for more far-flung weekend travel. I like that the packages are BPA-free. But I don't like how much they cost, given how little food is actually in them, and I don't like throwing all those packages (by the handful, once emptied -- post-outing -- from my purse) in the trash. As much as we've relied upon 'fruit squeezies' for bribes and mobile snacking, I've also felt that they're economically and environmentally, well, wasteful. And while I get that convenience sometimes leads to compromise, these downsides have kept me from loving the 'squeezies' as much as Kaspar does -- until now.

Enter: the Little Green Pouch, a fillable, pourable, re-usable, freezable, dishwasher-safe, BPA-free, totally awesome make-your-own 'fruit squeezie' solution to our family's little wastefulness problem! This pouch has a leak-proof zipper-type opening at the top into which I can pour all manner of fruit/veg/chia seed creations, and a little capped spout -- just like the throwaway pouches -- through which Kaspar can enjoy his nourishing, now-affordable treats. I've been filling these pouches with fresh, homemade juices, as well as kefir smoothies, and even (lightly cooked, then pureed and cooled) fruit and veg combos like the one pictured below -- that's an apple, spinach and blueberry "squeezie" in the making. The photo at top is Kaspar downing it whilst in the midst of a full-on sinus infection last week... There's no way I'd get a pan-full of spinach anything into sick Kaspar without cloaking it in treat-dom, but he ingested this mix happily, thanks to the pouch, and, needless to say, benefited immensely from the anti-oxident boost.

I have three or four prepared pouches in the fridge at all times, ready to grab and go, and I keep one in the freezer for longer days. As for weekend or week-long travel, we'll probably still rely upon the store-bought stuff when we run out of homemade, but not wasting packaging and cash when we're kicking around home, and Austin, means I don't mind forking it over (and throwing stuff out) quite so much when convenience really does call our names. 
Wanna get in on the 'fruit squeezie' fun? Little Green Pouch has generously offered to gift a four-pack of pouches to a lucky Alt-Mama giveaway winner! It could be you! Leave a comment below and tell me what your favorite juice or smoothie ingredients are.  Don't forget to include your email in the required field so I can reach you if you win. (I will never give, sell or lend your email address to anyone.) I'll select -- and announce -- a random winner next Wednesday, January 9. Have fun, and good luck!
At the Austin Children's Museum
Kaspar’s been on winter break what-feels-like-FOREVER up in here; its first half was chockablock full, between a sinus infection (first antibiotics in well over a year for the little guy, and they took care of the infection but brought on some eczema flashbacks… we rocked the probiotics, herbs and coconut oil, though, and took that eczema OUT) and, of course, holiday shenanigans. Which were super fun. By New Year’s Day, however, Aaron and I realized that our house was in chaos and our kid was going stir-crazy, so we came up with a list of activities to get us through to next Tuesday, when his break ends. So far we’ve hit up the Austin Children’s Museum and a fish store (it doesn’t take much, thankfully); also in the works are a visit from his Grandmother, some pottery-painting, and perhaps a trip to one of those bouncy-house places… although I’m not exactly eager to head back to the pediatrician just yet, so we may skip that last one (bouncy house place = germ factory, no?). 

In the meantime, we’ve had a great start to this new year; I just have a good feeling about 2013. The sinus infection (and preceding general sickness-season) notwithstanding, we've had some exciting things happen lately, and there's more fun ahead. Here's a sampling:

1.     I got a massage job at a swank-but-not-stuffy (more design-forward, fancy-hip, if you know what I mean) spa right downtown, which means I’m always booked when I work, and I’m paid well for my time (not a guarantee in this field, but something that really matters, for obvious reasons). On top of that, the company is extremely employee-friendly; they’re careful not to burn their people out, and provide full benefits, paid vacation time, etc. I’ve taken on three shifts a week, still have my afternoons off to be a mama, and, so far, genuinely like every manager, co-worker and client I’ve crossed paths with. I can still do my writing work and other part-time job without things getting too crazy (except maybe once or twice a year, but I can handle it!), and I still have full flexibility and control over my schedule. This is exactly what I hoped for, and planned; it’s been an interesting, improvisational journey since leaving the nine-to-five world, but I will never go back! My freedom means too much to me. I’m so glad I took a chance on fate to find it. Hooray for work we love. 

2.     Did you see Alt-Mama (plus Aaron!) on Apartment Therapy yesterday? Woot! I love that website… or empire of websites, rather. Good stuff. 

3.     Kaspar’s moving on up to preschool-proper -- at his current Montessori school but with a new class and new teachers -- in a few weeks. Then he’s turning three in February. This is all kind of blowing my mind. I wrote a sappy, but wholly earnest note to his teacher before the holiday break, telling her how we weren’t sure he’d even be okay (as in, safe) in a classroom environment: now we are certain he’ll thrive in the world, and not just in terms of safety. This past year and a half has been amazing for him; his allergy stuff has gone from a pretty debilitating situation to a very manageable one, and he has blossomed as a confident, kind, funny, smart, joy-filled little person. Preschool, y’all. It’s happening. Whoa.

4.     Speaking of turning three, and improved allergy stuff, we’re coming up on our next round of allergy testing for Kas. I am hoping to get some very good news in February and to add some new foods to Kaspar’s plate – maybe some legumes? Avocado? Who knows?? Please send good juju for lower allergy counts across the board; I am really hoping hard on this end that we'll see last year's trend continue and that Kaspar's world will become just a little bit tastier (and a little less scary). 

5.     I’m feeling primed to take on some major organizational projects around here. Our closets have somehow filled with boxes and we don’t know exactly what’s in them.  I’ll find out, and keep you posted. We’re also finally hanging our art, and I’ve been pinning up a storm for a few months now, so have a host of home-improvements in mind for near-future execution. (Anyone know anything about indoor plants? Or hammocks? Hit me up.) Our home is our sanctuary, after all, and although it might be kind of messy right now -- housecleaning and school vacations simply do not mix – we have a vision for this little abode, and 2013 is our year.

6.     There’s another very exciting something happening right now (way more exciting than home improvements, even) that I can’t tell you about just yet. But stay tuned! Other than Aaron, my mom and my best friend, you readers will be the first to know. ;-)

               How's your 2013 so far? Any resolutions, inspirations, or plans? Tell all (or hint at surprises) in the comments below!