Sunday, December 27, 2009

Adventures in Sewing Cloth Diapers

We're on the cloth diaper bandwagon already, but being hopeful and overly ambitious, I thought I could probably make some myself. I mean, fitted cloth diapers are as cute as a dog eating ice cream. But, they can be pricey. So I ordered a cheap sewing machine and Will and I headed to Michael's craft store for fabric remnants and thread.

After reading through this sewing machine's manual, and realizing what the heck a bobbin is, I began the adventure with some awesome fabric. I first made a little cover for those travel size baby wipes containers. After some troubleshooting and reloading the bobbin, it came out pretty good. So, I drew up a diaper pattern and jumped in with both feet. Here are the fruits of my labor:

Doubler (left) and inside of fitted cloth diaper (right)

Despite my misgivings, adding leg elastic was much easier than I expected. So, if you think that will be your downfall-no worries. If I can do it, anyone can!

Outside of fitted diaper

I need to add snaps or something to the wings so the diaper can close, I suppose. But, right now it would work just fine with a snappi. I do want to add an umbilical snap since it's a newborn size diaper so he'll have a little wiggle room until the umbilical cord stump falls off.

Ultimately, if you want to save some money, but still want cute fitted diapers instead of prefolds only, do it yourself! I couldn't (and hadn't ever) sew a stitch before yesterday, so it isn't as difficult as it looks. I'm actually looking forward to making more and seeing how they turn out!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Heathen Christmas: The Tree

Nothing smells as wonderful to me as a fresh Fraser fir tree in the living room. Many, or even most, Westerners are currently enjoying the same thing (unless of course, they have fallen to the plastic tree gods). The evergreen tree, decked out in lights and various ornaments is a very old tradition, despite such modernizations as multicolor LED lights. So, how old is this tradition?

The modern Christmas tree is actually derived from a few ancient traditions. However, most common traditions came from Scandinavia. In ancient Scandinavian cultures, people celebrated the winter solstice by decorating evergreen trees with apples. It's pretty cold and snowy in Scandinavian countries, particularly on the shortest day of the year, so seeing a tree that stays pretty and green all year was a ray of hope that the winter would end and spring would come again. Decorations such as fruit (for harvest), nuts (for fertility), and coins (for wealth) decorated both Germanic trees and Celtic druid trees during the winter. The cut wood was then burned (Yule log) as a promise and celebration that the sun would return again.

Eventually, with the spread of Christianity, the church adopted the evergreen tree and other winter greenery to more easily convert Germanic pagans. Though some Christian symbolism has been loosely attached to the modern tannenbaum, it is still a Pagan tradition. In fact, I found many articles arguing whether some Bible verses condemn the idea of decorating a tree in reference to all the ancient celebrations.

As you are aware, there are many different plants that are associated with the winter holidays other than the evergreen tree. I will go through them over the next few days.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Heathen Christmas: The Date

Everyone over the age of 2 knows Christmas is celebrated on December 25. Why? "Because it's Jesus' birthday!" squealed the kids during the children's sermons I used to see in church years ago. Well, that is the premise of the symbolism of Christmas for Christians, but let's check out why December 25 is really the day they celebrate the birth of Jesus.

There are many discrepancies as to when Jesus was supposedly born-however, they pretty much all agree it was not on December 25. Well, despite the popularity in modern times, Christianity was not the hot religion in its infancy. Paganism (an umbrella term for pretty much every region's pre-christian beliefs) was the religion of the day, and in Rome the early Christians were seriously outnumbered.

In December, the celebration of Saturnalia captivated the masses. The Roman poet Catullus, described Saturnalia as the best of days for the Roman people. Everyone, including slaves, participated in the celebrations, which included parties with friends, giving gifts of wax candles and statues, and particularly playing role reversals for fun and humor. The celebration started out as one day and eventually transformed into a week-long celebration because of the popularity. (Although, I'm certain the Christmas season starting in October would be too much for the Roman pagans as well!)

Needless to say, the Romans didn't want to give up this religious celebration to convert to Christianity. So, in the 4th century, the Christian leaders did the next best thing: declare Jesus' birthday as December 25 and encourage pagans to convert on the promise that they could still celebrate Saturnalia even after conversion. And so began the slow and steady conversion of Pagan holiday to Christian holiday.

So, we have the date: how about the rest? Stay tuned this week and next for more.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas is for us Heathens

So, it's started again. You know, the arguments and fighting over "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas" being used in stores, anti- and pro-consumerism dreck, and evangelicals screeching that we should all keep in mind the "reason for the season". On the last point, I completely agree. We should remember the reason we celebrate winter holidays for the historical and cultural implications. Which is why I will be posting about the history of this awesome winter season, and why, despite what you hear, Jesus really isn't the reason behind pretty much any of it.

So, fellow heathens, enjoy your egg nog and get ready to hear to the real symbolism behind all the mainstream christmas traditions.

Meanwhile, on a side note about the Happy Holidays debate-is it really so offensive for someone to wish you Happy anything? I don't get offended when someone wishes me a Happy Christmas-I mean, they might be a bit presumptuous, but nonetheless are sending me good wishes. I'm just as pleased with a "Happy Wednesday".

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Activism: Breastfeeding Edition

It seems like every day I see another news story about a woman being discriminated against for breastfeeding in public. The latest happened in a Target store in Detroit to a mother breastfeeding her 4 week old while shopping. Last I checked a 4 week old baby isn't going to wait (and shouldn't have to) until a more "convenient" time to eat-especially if it's only inconveniencing strangers who are worried they might see some side boob.

Facebook got in on this at the beginning of this year when the website took down any photo that showed a woman breastfeeding. Now, I could see this possibly being totally justified if Facebook had a policy against showing areolas (despite the fact that Facebook took down pictures of women breastfeeding that showed no part of the nipple) or had nudity standards, but this is not the case. Take a peek at some of the photos on facebook as of Dec. 2, 2009 that are not deemed "obscene".
From one of the Jessica Alba fan-pages. Definitely has more pics of her in semi-nude poses.

From the Women in Photography page, which has at least 1 other photo of a partially nude model

From the PETA page-which has many other nude and partially nude women often in provocative poses. Don't get me started on the feminist issues I have with this.

The saddest part is that these are some of the pictures previously taken down. I don't know about you, but they don't look too "obscene" to me.

Now, I personally have no problem with female nudity (if not done as an objectification of women to serve an agenda--I'm looking at you, PETA) or male nudity, but if people are going to get all up in arms because a woman might have an inch of her breast exposed at the park, Toys-R-Us, or at an amusement park, then maybe they should be more concerned about the nudity on magazine covers, in the lingerie store advertisements, etc. However, I don't see these busybodies complaining about the lingerie ads in target--just the nursing mother.

Ok, so maybe you are offended by all this media nudity and still think breastfeeding is obscene. I'm sure you have some common comments and arguments that I would like to refute.

  • I don't want to see it. Simple: don't look. It takes 2 seconds to turn your face. I get grossed out by kids picking their noses in public, but I don't scream that they should be kicked out of the store, or wherever. I just turn my face and grimace. Feel free to do the same!
  • Cover the kid up with a blanket! First, do you like to have your face covered up while eating, drinking, or trying to breathe in general? It's hot under a blanket! Should a baby feeding from a bottle be forced to put his little head under a blanket? Meanwhile, I don't think you should put things over an infant's face that could possibly restrict air flow-especially while eating.
  • Go to the bathroom to do that. Again, would you want to eat, or even sit, in a public restroom for longer than the minute you have to when using the toilet? It's gross in there. I don't want to smell public restroom for 10 minutes while my kid eats, and I'm sure he won't either. Not to mention you shouldn't expose infants to e. coli in the restroom if possible.
  • Go out to your car. Why, so the people in the parking lot can complain? It's not always convenient. Women often do nurse out in their cars, but if it's 20 or 105 degrees F outside, I don't want to sit in the car. Or, if I'm in the middle of my shopping, I'm not going to abandon my cart and sit in the car only to start all over again just because you can't draw your eyes from trying to catch a glimpse of my nipple so you can complain to the store manager.
  • I don't pee/poop/insert bodily function out in the street! First of all, I'm glad to hear this. Next, it isn't at all the same thing. I promise women don't leave a snail trail of milk behind them wherever they go just because they're lactating. Not to mention that unless the woman has a blood borne illness (in which case she probably won't be breastfeeding anyway), you don't have the same element of disease involved. Breast milk might even heal a common illness you have if it gets on you.
  • I don't want my son/husband/boyfriend to see your breasts! To me, this is the most sad argument of all. It hurts me to hear of women being so influenced by the media and other outside influences to regard the breast as a purely sexual organ. I assure you, most men do not get aroused seeing a baby attached to an exposed breast. Besides, we as mothers should be teaching our sons that women and their breasts are not put on earth only for the sexual pleasure of men. If you teach him that breasts are not only sexual, but life giving and perfectly evolved to feed children, then he will gain a new level of respect for women as a whole.