Top 10 New Articles of 2014

One of the interesting things about writing a handy guidebook for this planet is that what Earthlings want to know doesn’t vary all that much from year to year.  The 10 most-viewed articles this year were first published between 2008 and 2013 (though they’ve all had updates), and that blood-type article alone has been read almost 28,000 times this year!

Amid all those popular classic articles, you might have missed some of the new chapters added to the Handbook this year, so here are the Top 10 articles that were new in 2014.  You might notice a common theme….

  1. What to Do If Your Baby Spits Up Blood.  Call the doctor!  But while you’re waiting for a call back, read this for a reassuring possible explanation of this disturbing symptom.
  2. Why I’m Sleeping in the Dining Room.  We rearranged our home in the spring.  This is my explanation of how and why we did it, and how it was working as of September, with excellent diagrams created by my son Nicholas.  (Here are the details on how he did the illustrations.)
  3. My kid doesn’t have to wear a coat.  Throughout his ten years of life, Nicholas has been teaching me that he truly doesn’t feel cold as easily as I do and that he rarely complains about conditions I would find uncomfortable, so he can make his own decisions about how to dress for the weather.  He wishes his teachers would read this article–but I understand that they need to standardize the rules about when to wear a coat to avoid debating with every student individually so that they’d never get out to recess!
  4. Why we didn’t have a Gender Reveal Party.  Now that it’s possible to find out whether your baby will be male or female before it’s born, a lot of people not only take for granted that they’ll find out but also announce it to everyone, sometimes with a party.  Although we respect other families’ decisions and share in our friends’ joyful expectation however they decide to express it, we felt strongly that we did not want to participate in this trend ourselves.  Here’s why.
  5. Wearing a stretchy tummy band instead of maternity pants: A review.  This is another trend in American pregnancy behaviors that’s emerged since my first pregnancy in 2004, and I did get into this one.  I had mixed feelings about the band and eventually decided it worked best as a temporary solution for Weeks 10-20, followed by maternity pants.  Here are all the pros and cons.  (Until I reread this, I had forgotten all about that horrible hip chafing I was suffering at this time last year.  Wow, I’m glad that’s over!)
  6. The Towel Pull: A Helpful Childbirth Technique.  After doing it twice, I’m convinced that this is a great way to get a baby out!  Both times, I was working with one birth professional who was familiar with this technique and one who wasn’t, so I think it’s important to spread the word.
  7. Humidify Your Home the Cheap and Easy Way!  Don’t buy a new power-guzzling, maintenance-demanding, mold-harboring appliance to get water into the air, when you could just use an old pie pan and some tap water.  Read the comments for helpful tips on other ways to increase humidity without wasting energy.
  8. Four Weeks of Mostly Meatless Dinners (February).  We weren’t fasting for Lent especially; this is just the way we eat most of the time.  If you do give up meat for Lent, or if your New Year’s resolution is to eat less meat, our multi-week menus may be helpful as you figure out what to eat that is affordable, has adequate protein, fits your budget, and uses seasonal ingredients.
  9. Why I Spent My Birthday Money on Socks.  Am I really boring and impoverished, or am I tuned in to the beauty and luxury of life’s simple pleasures?  Read this and find out.
  10. Cloth Diapers: What Works for Our Family.  Here’s lots of detail on which brands of diapers and related items we are using and how we like them.  (Stay tuned for reviews of the additional diapers, 1-3 each of several different brands, that I gave my daughter for Christmas!  I’m starting early to teach her the philosophy of #9 above.)

Golly, have you guessed that we have a new baby this year?  Her name is Lydia.  She’s almost eight months old now and plans to inspire many more articles.  This isn’t the style of blog where I post pictures and gush about the adorability of my little pookums, but I assure you that she is very adorable and interesting!  I didn’t realize just how many of my new articles were about my baby or pregnancy–or that those articles had been more popular than most of my others–until I looked at the WordPress stats for the year.  I’m glad to be a resource for Earth parents!

Honorable Mention

Here are some articles published toward the end of 2013 that didn’t make last year’s Top 10 but were popular in 2014:

  • Tips for Surviving Pregnancy Nausea.  It wasn’t quite as bad this time around because of the lessons I learned the first time.  If you are a first-time mom, or you’re planning to be one, or you know an expectant mother who is too queasy to click a mouse, be sure to read these many things I wish I’d known in advance.
  • A Laundry Line-Drying System that Will Work for YOU!  You know you want to save money, reduce energy consumption, and make your clothes last longer by giving up the electric dryer, but how are you going to work a clothesline into your lifestyle?  This post collects all the helpful tips of my 24 years of laundry air-drying experience in one place.
  • Planning, Parenting, and Perfection.  This is the whole story of how Lydia happened to be born more than nine years after her only sibling.  I never planned to have a baby at age 40, but it’s turned out just perfectly–like a lot of my other plans for my adult life.

Also, I can’t resist an honorable mention of my son’s first guest post, Recycling Used-Up Pens and Markers. I’m so proud of his environmental consciousness, initiative, planning, follow-through, and emerging journalism skills!

Those are the new posts that worked for me this year!  Best wishes for 2015!

28 Book Reviews!

For some reason, growing a new life makes me want to read books I’ve never read before.  Starting last fall during my exhausted queasy phase and continuing up until now, when Lydia is seven months old, I’ve reread only a few books and read many more that were new to me.  Only a few of them are recent releases, but perhaps you missed the older books, so they’ll be new to you, too.

This list includes several books that my life-partner Daniel recommended when I was casting about restlessly with no immediate opportunity to go to the library or a used-book sale, as well as some from the stack he handed me when I said, “What science fiction would I like that I haven’t read?” a few weeks before attending Capclave.  If you are in a long-term relationship, try asking your partner for books he or she would like you to read: They’ll give you something new to talk about, which can teach you new things about each other, and they’ll give you even more in common.

Anyway, on with the books!  (They are in alphabetical order by author and then by title.)

Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine

This travelogue of Earth by the author of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (and a zoologist co-author) was obviously right up my alley, yet for some reason I’d never noticed it on our shelf until Daniel recommended it to me.  Adams and Carwardine visited a bunch of endangered species in their exotic habitats and wrote about it with a highly entertaining blend of interesting zoological facts and, well, Douglas Adams.  WARNING: Do not read the part about the Komodo dragons when you are struggling with nausea and/or all alone downstairs in the middle of the night, let alone both. Read more…

The Nutcracker: music for the imagination

Ah, December, the month when the days are getting shorter and shortest as we try to pack in shopping, parties, preparations for hospitality or travel, and tranquil spiritual contemplation along with all our usual activities!  It makes a kid who persistently wants attention all the more annoying.

The December my son Nicholas turned two, I found a great way to get him to use his imagination, work out some of his physical energy, and leave me alone just enough that I could wash the dishes!  It also boosts my holiday spirit and gives me a nice feeling of being a classy, educational sort of mom.

Most of us are familiar with The Nutcracker as a ballet, a theatrical event that we might attend annually or only when somebody we know is in it.  But it’s also a musical composition by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky that is beautiful and tells a story even when you have only the music.

We happen to live just blocks away from the incomparable Jerry’s Records, so I picked up The Nutcracker as a two-record set for $4.
Nutcracker album cover
Read more…

Our Green Christmas Tree (now with photos!)

Back in 2007, I wrote about the little tree Daniel and I, with the help of former housemate Bill, made for our first Christmas together, back in 1996.  Made mostly of repurposed materials, this is a great alternative to cutting down a real tree or using a factory-made artificial tree.  It’s still going strong!  I’m finally responding to all the requests for photos of it.  Sorry I don’t have any pictures of the construction, but I’m reprinting the verbal description, and I bet you can figure it out–it was easy to make.

Christmas tree on the game cabinet

We just set it up for our 19th Christmas together.  Every year, we simply bring it up from the basement, wipe off dust with a damp cloth, and decorate!  Here’s how we made it: Read more…