With the new baby coming, we are so blessed to have family that is able and willing to come stay with us for awhile.  E’s room is quite large and easily fits a full-size sofa bed in addition to her own toddler bed.  However, we felt that having someone sleeping in the same room was possibly causing some sleep issues so I decided that a room divider of some sort was in order.  Not only would it provide a physical (and hopefully psychological) boundary for E, but it would also give the adult sharing the room with her a modicum of privacy and personal space.  It can be hard to live in someone else’s home for an extended period of time, and we wanted to make it as comfortable as possible for our parents/siblings coming to stay with us and help.

At first, I wanted to mount a curtain rail to the ceiling and use panel curtains from IKEA as a room divider.  My husband wisely nixed the idea of anything so permanent, as we are moving in the summer.  Nor did he want me to go out an buy yet another piece of furniture that would need to be moved.  The typical folding room dividers seemed flimsy and unattractive and expensive for what they were.  My mother-in-law offered to lend us their extremely expensive (and extremely heavy) three-panel Stickley wood divider, but I felt that was both impractical for her to move and too short to really provide any division.

A week ago, I came across an old Martha Stewart magazine clipping I’d saved about using bookcases as dividers.  Specifically, the article had suggested using two low and long set of shelves stacked on top of each other to create both storage and a wall.  I realized that I could repurpose a previous IKEA hack: IKEA kitchen cabinets I had mounted on a wall in E’s room as shelves.   These shelves would now go in the middle of the room, between the two beds.  My father, who happens to be visiting and from whom I get my love of all things crafty from, advised that rather than stacking them (which would be hard to secure), to leave them as one row and attach frame for a screen directly to the bookcases.  No new furniture: check!  No permanent fixtures on the wall/ceiling: check! Low cost: check!  Nesting instinct satisfied: check!

I started out with two akurum kitchen cabinets, placed side by side.  The frame was constructed with three vertical square poles and two horizontal wooden dowels.  The akurum cabinets conveniently have holes in the back panel for mounting to a rail or the stud, so we used these holes to secure brackets with pre-drilled holes on the back side of the cabinet.  We then used screws to attach the wooden poles to the brackets and shelves.  My father drilled holes in the poles to fit the dowels, which served as rods to hang my screens from.

For the actual screens themselves, I was inspired by various hanging room-dividers I had seen online constructed of both window frames and repeated shapes.  I used translucent, patterned place mats (also from IKEA) connected with s-hooks.  In all, it was very simple, and we were able to put it together in one morning.  Planning, however, required a few days of measuring and more than one trip to the hardware store (btw, Home Depot > Lowes).

I think the end result is beautiful and I am already thinking of how I can possibly move at least parts of the divider with us cross-country.  I’m also starting to plot ideas for transforming the back side of the room divider into something functional and fun for E to use once our guests have left.

tools & materials:
2 AKURUM cabinets (2’hx3’wx1’d)
3 wooden poles, 1″ square, cut to 67″ tall (would have looked okay with another 1/4″ to 1/2″ in length)
2 wooden dowels, 5/16″ diameter, cut to 3′ in length
18 KLISTRIG placemats (come in packs of 4) – NOTE: use the metric measurements
48 small s-hooks to attach placemats to each other, more to attach to screens to the sides of the frame
12 large s-hooks to attach screen to dowels
cup or eye hooks to attach screens to sides of frame
jigsaw/hand-held saw
electric drill
electric screwdriver
needle-nose pliers (crimping the s-hooks)

previous akurum hack:
deka curtain wires
fabric for inside of shelves and curtain coverings

potential continuation of hack (in the future, duration of pregnancy permitting):
foam core posterboard
chalk board spray paint

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It has been a little more than three months since I started this experiment.  While it was certainly interesting, I found the water-only method much too time consuming in the end.  Cleaning my hair always took a long time in the shower and I found that my hairbrushes needed cleaning almost daily.  This, plus the inevitable self-consciousness about whether I smelled or not whenever I went out in public made me decide to ultimately abandon water-only washing.  In addition, spending 10 days at my in-laws’ home over the holidays necessitated a change in hair-care routine.

I am now alternating between a very dilute apple cider vinegar rinse, conditioner only, and a gentle shampoo once a week.  I found a great deal on VO5 conditioner – $0.79 a bottle, which is great since I am going through a bottle a month.  I read that the cheapest conditioners – without any silicones – are the best for conditioner only and so far, I have not had any greasiness or buildup on my hair.  While it remains to be seen what will happen after the baby comes (t-minus 4 weeks), this is probably the best routine of everything I have tried.

So, one of the things that was difficult about water-only washing was the amount of time needed to brush, brush, brush (and brush) my hair.  This, and combing with a fine-toothed comb, seemed to be the only way to combat the build-up of sebum (or whatever the waxy stuff was) on my hair.  While my hair still looked clean, touching my hair a lot would result in a chalky/waxy residue coming off on my fingers.  Not only was this gross, but time-consuming as my brushes and combs also needed cleaning daily.

I never went through a predicted “greasy” phase, but the waxy stuff was just getting to be too much for me.  Plus, it made me very self-conscious about the smell, even though one had to get pretty close in order to smell it.

As a result, a little over a week ago, I began using a dilute apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse on my hair, every other day or so, and that seems to clean my hair of the buildup while leaving it really shiny.   On the other days, I continue to wash with water only.  It seems like a 1:3 or even 1:4 ratio of ACV to filtered water every other day works well, although I do wonder if I could get away with a more dilute solution.  Too much ACV or too often (i.e. every day) seems to leave my hair greasy feeling.  I also spritz my hair once or twice a day with some essential oils.

Right now, my hair has less weight that before when using water only, but is actually wavier and definitely shinier. For the time being, I am happy with this arrangement.  However, it seems to indicate that water alone does not effectively clean my hair – at least, to my liking.  Water only washing on my skin, on the other hand, is doing wonders.  I still use a gentle soap in areas that need more washing, but the skin in places that used to be very dry (i.e. arms, legs) is so much happier.

When I purchased my Uppababy Vista in 2009, I was convinced that it was as close to perfection as a full-featured stroller could get.  The only major quibble I had about it was that the seat could not sit completely upright.  So, when I heard about the 2010 Uppababy Vista’s new “0” position (upright), I was sorely tempted to sell my 2009 and buy the 2010.  I learned today, however, that the 2010 seat does, in fact, fit the 2009 (albeit with some wiggling to get snapped in) and can be purchased directly from Uppababy for $170; $150 if you keep the same color.  I’m so excited!!  I am definitely buying the new seat…

now to decide what color to get…

Shampoo has not touched a hair on my head for three weeks now and my hair has never looked better!  It’s shiny and definitely has more body and volume.  I’m also not noticing any smell anymore, although that could just be me getting used to it.

Since the water-only experiment has been going so well, this week I thought I’d try a sage/rosemary/parsley rinse.  I’ve had white hairs as long as I can remember, and when I got older I started dying it, but as I’m pregnant right now I thought it was an opportune time to experiment with herbal, natural dyes.  I used it two days in a row, but I feel like it dries my hair out, so I may have to space it out a little.  It’s hard to say yet if it actually works.

When I was starting this experiment, I kept reading about a greasy phase, but I have yet to encounter it.  I think using water only is the key.  Granted, my hair type – asian, straight,  slightly dry – may also work really well with this type of washing.

Despite the fact that I have not used any shampoo for two weeks, my hair has never once looked oily or dirty.  I am brushing it regularly with a boar bristle brush (BBB) and still take daily showers, washing my scalp by massaging it while hot water runs over it.   I am not actively washing the rest of my hair besides letting water run over it.  Initially, I found that my hair felt waxy when wet.  However, when dry, my hair looked perfectly clean, but the hair on the top and outer layer looked and felt drier than the hair underneath.  Today I tried splitting my hair down the middle and letting the hot water run over it while I finished the rest of my showering business and that seems to help me make sure that all the parts of my scalp are getting equally washed.  Interestingly, my hair felt soft and normal when washing it today and not waxy at all.

Because my hair is quite long, I am finding that I need to put something on the ends still, probably because it takes a few weeks for the sebum to work its way down the shaft of the hair.  The longer the hair, obviously the longer it will take.  When I brush my hair, it’s static-y, which tells me that the ends are still quite dry.  The parts of my hair where the sebum has started to coat it feels heavier, thicker, and has a healthy-looking shine; it does not, however, look any fuller…just more…dense, if that makes sense.  My hair also has developed a natural wave.  In comparison, before this experiment, my hair was at its best when it was washed/conditioned regularly with Hayashi shampoo and deep conditioner ($$$); it felt and looked like silk: very glossy, straight, extremely soft but also very thin and prone to greasiness if not washed daily.

When I was starting this experiment, I read many online accounts of people who were doing the “no-poo” thing and reported that their hair did not smell.  Well, am not finding that to be the case.  While the hair itself doesn’t smell like anything, my head (scalp?) smells.  It doesn’t necessarily stink, but it smells vaguely like an old chinese man (namely, my dad).  I’m quite self-conscious about it and have taken to wearing perfume.  I think the strength of the smell has gradually decreased, but I may just be noticing it less.   In the past two weeks, every few days when I can’t take the smell anymore, I have washed my scalp with a baking soda solution followed by a lemon juice/honey solution rinse to balance the pH.   However, in going forward with my experiment, I want to try to avoid these measures since I think they generally dry out my hair.  I might try spritzing my hair with a fragrance instead, but the idea of covering up the smell with fragrance kind of grosses me out a little.

Since I am not getting a lot of sebum build-up (hair is naturally kind of dry), yesterday I skipped washing it in an effort to speed up the sebum getting to the ends.  I put it into a french braid before bed.  I was pleasantly surprised by they way it looked today – wavy and full; the sebum seems to help my hair stay wavy from the braid (no product needed).  However, I still think the ends are looking dry so today I put some olive oil on the ends before showering and, after washing, rinsed with cold water.

Recently, I read this article in the NYT about women reaching a certain age and feeling the need to cut their hair short.  What caught my attention, however, was not the so-called “taboo” described by the author, but rather, a little tidbit about her hair care regime – “regular hot water rinses and massaging of the scalp with fingertips,”  resulting in “glossy, thick tresses, for free.”

Intrigued, I googled “washing hair without shampoo” and came upon early 781,000 hits about cleansing hair without the use of shampoo; otherwise known as the “no-poo” movement.  The logic behind this movement is that the relatively-newly invented shampoo chemically strip the hair of its natural oils and as a result, the scalp begins to over-produce the oil.  This leads to the need for more shampooing, and thus, a vicious cycle is born.  Once one stops using shampoo, supposedly one’s scalp also rebalances itself, producing just enough oils to keep hair healthy.

Some website suggest foregoing any cleansing agent completely – cold turkey, if you will, while many others seem to recommend cleaning with baking soda and rinsing with some type of acid (usually apple cider vinegar or lemon juice).

Since I’m on cheap, on bedrest and not going to be seen in public anyway, I decided I’d give it a shot.

Pre-experiement hair: a little dry and somewhat limp, condition of which probably not helped by the fact that I neither brush or style it.  Ever.

Day 1: Morning – washed hair with hot water and plenty of massaging.  After drying, hair does not look greasy and stays so throughout the day.   However, by midday, I feel oily.  You know that feeling, around your ears and at the base of your skull?  While my hair still looks clean, I can’t fall asleep with this greasy feeling, so I try a little baking soda (one teaspoon in one cup of water) followed by a brown-sugar scrub and fruit acid scrub.

Day 2:  Bad idea.  That scrub is for skin and usually leaves a film that needs to be scrubbed off with soap and a loofah.  Needless to say, when I woke up this morning, my hair had a little too much texture, if you know what I mean.  Interestingly, while my hair looked like cramp, my scalp was still not oily.  After a few hours, I couldn’t take it anymore and went back to the shower, applying a watery paste of baking soda (about 3 parts baking soda to 2 parts water) to my scalp place of shampoo, thoroughly massaging.  Hair felt strange, almost coarse, while washing with this method.  In comparison, when I use shampoo, it feels a little dry, but more slippery.  However, after rinsing with diluted lemon juice and honey, and then just hot water, my hair felt better.  Still not as silky and slippery as when I use conditioner, but more normal and actually, perhaps even a bit thicker.  After the shower, I let my hair air dry.   Hair definitely feels lighter and not greasy at all.

It happened today.

I knew this day was coming, and the truth is, it probably could and should have come sooner, but I couldn’t bring myself to it.

I spanked E today.

***

Before the PC police jump all over me, a disclaimer:  I was spanked (sparingly) as a child and I believe that spanking, when done for the right reasons and conducted in the appropriate manner and mindset, is not abusive but rather, an effective and even loving means of discipline.

***

After parking the car, I needed to carry a large bulky item.  Although E is perfectly capable of walking, at the moment she did not feel like walking and wanted to be carried.  Since I could not do so, she refused to walk the 20 feet necessary to get to the elevator and sat down in the middle of the parking spot right next to us – broken glass, engine oil, and all.  This is not a new occurrence.  Notedly, she was not throwing a tantrum but was rather calm.  She was not out of control emotionally, but simply being defiant, and potentially putting herself in harm’s way without realizing it.

First, I asked if her feet were hurting.  Nope.  I asked her what was wrong.  No response.  I then tried a number of strategies, including reminding her of her stuffed “babies” waiting for her at home, asking her if she wanted to help me carry a bag, and explaining to her why I could not carry her and why it was not safe for her to sit down in the middle of the parking lot.  I gave her a hug and kiss.  I told her that she could have a popsicle after her nap.  Nothing I tried worked.

Finally, and reluctantly, I told her that I would count to three, and if she did not get up and start to walk, I would have to spank her because she was not listening to me and disobeying me.  She cheerfully helped me count.  Since there were no people around, I took her into the car and explained that I really did not want to spank her (because I was really, really dreading it), and that it’s important to listen to me because I love her and am trying to keep her safe.  Then, with the palm of my hand, I gingerly swatted her bare bottom once.

No response.  Or, more accurately, she asked if she could steer the car (we were sitting in the front seat).  “Hmm…” I thought to myself, “this obviously hurt me much more than it did her.  Did she even really feel it?”

We got out of the car and I asked her if she was ready to walk now.

Her response?  She plopped herself right down again and proceeded to pick up some grimy pebbles.  I lifted her onto her feet.  She sat right back down.  We repeated this a few more times.

Finally, I asked her if she wanted to be spanked again; she responded in the affirmative.  I told her that spanking was “ouchie” and that she should not like spankings.  A count to three and into the car we went, once again.This time, we sat in the backseat and I smacked her once more, this time little more forcefully, wincing the whole time.  Again, I followed it with a hug and kiss, repeating to her that I did not like spanking her, but had to do it because I loved her and was trying to protect her.

We got out of the car and when I wouldn’t carry her, she immediately sat on the ground again.    Feeling like the worst mother in the world, I told her that if she did not get up and start walking, I would have to spank her again, this time twice.  And I was good to my word, spanking her twice, just a little harder this time.  I can’t tell you how much it hurt my heart to see her little bottom turn pink.  All I wanted to do was smother her in kisses.  E didn’t cry but seemed very thoughtful.  I gave her a hug and told her that I loved her and that it hurt me to spank her but that I had to do it because she was not obeying me.

We got back out of the car and this time she didn’t sit on the ground.  I asked her if she wanted to walk and she said no.  I then asked if she wanted to push the elevator button, to which she replied yes and happily pranced (for lack of better word) towards the elevator.

So…while I’m not 100% positive it was the spanking that got her to walk, I do think it helped her attitude as she also cheerfully walked the entire way from the elevator to our apartment without complaint, which was completely different from earlier in the day when I had to cajole/carry/bribe her to go to the car.

My experience as a teacher has taught me children test authority because they want to know what is expected of them.  When the boundaries are clear, consistent, and simple, children feel secure.  Meaningful consequences are always logical usually immediate.  Empty threats with no follow-through just result in a rowdy and disorganized classroom.  In a sense, setting logical boundaries helps in modeling good choices and thoughtful behavior.  Learning happens best when students know that their teacher is fair, not punitive, and in control of the situation.

I think disciplining a child is the same way.  A child wants to know that there is someone bigger who will always protect and care for her, no matter what.

Even though it pained me (even more than I expected) to spank her, I felt that it was the right thing to do for my toddler.  I know there are times when E is simply being curious or simply uncoordinated and I would never discipline her for simply being immature.  I am careful, also, to pick my battles.  At 25 months, my main forms of “discipline” are still prevent and distract, but there are now occasional times when E needs consequences that are immediate and easy to understand.  Time outs only work when it makes sense for her to need to sit in a quiet and isolated spot for a few minutes.  Saying things like “next time” or “when we get home” do not work for her because those consequences are too distant.  Toddlers are impulsive, and E doesn’t really understand how her present behavior might affect her future circumstance.  She has no sense of delayed gratification.  Obviously, as E gets older and matures in her understanding and self-recognition, spanking will be phased out in favor of grounding, revoking of privileges, etc.

Could I have circumvented the spanking?  Technically, yes, I could have gone back later in the afternoon for the package, but I was thinking about the fact that very soon I would be too pregnant to carry her and also that at 2 years, she needed to learn that it was not okay to sit in the middle of the road/sidewalk/parking lot just because she didn’t like something.

In reflecting on the spanking, I did not do it out of anger, and was calm throughout, never once raising my voice at her, and I was careful to always connect the spanking with her behavior (rather than her worth or our relationship).  Recently there was an article in the NYT about how yelling is the new spanking.  Since parents no longer spank, they resort to yelling at their children.  My take is that yelling has never been an effective form of discipline in a classroom and I fail to see how it would be effective as a means of disciplining a child.  My point in bringing up this article is not to say that it’s evil to raise our voice or show agitation, or even to say that every child needs spanking, but rather use it as evidence that children need discipline, boundaries, and consequences; the fact that younger children lack the understanding for more sophisticated and nuanced consequences doesn’t negate the need for discipline.  Children need discipline that is appropriate for their  developmental age and maturity.

Or else they turn into self-centered brats.

There is nothing quite like the pitter-patter of little feet running across the room.

My birthday present to E is that she is getting a little brother or sister.  Granted, the “present” will arrive a little later than her birthday – February, to be precise.

I’ve been feeling nauseous and lethargic and have been losing weight.  E, being the sweet little thing that she is, tries to take care of me.  At mealtimes, if she notices that I’m not eating, she will say “mommy eat” or “mommy fan-fan (dinner/rice).”  Sometimes, when I say that I’m not feeling well, she will lean her head against me or pat my face.