Wednesday, December 26, 2007

...And here it is...

Here's my bEco!
(This was Sunday)

We went for a three hour walk w/ Sophie on my back today!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The One That Got Away

A couple weeks back I saw a post that had JUST gone up on The Baby Wearer offering two bEco baby carriers, each for $80, an incredible price for the Cadillac of soft structured carriers! One was in the print Kashmir, and after looking at a few pics, I realized I LOVED the print. It was girly but geometric, with a touch of gothic thrown in. And I posted a reply... to find when the page reloaded both carriers had sold in a heartbeat! I sighed, and moved on. I needed to try my friend's bEco out still anyway, see if the fit worked for us, see if it helped with getting TF on my back. I needed to see an actual picture of THIS bEco to see the exact condition... It just wasn't meant to be.

Alas, I tried to tell myself all those things, but all I could think, especially when I saw other bEcos offered for $120, that this was The One That Got Away. I couldn't stop thinking of it. I was rueful. Come ON. Fourth-generation design, dual-adjustable straps, three-sectioned waist band, detachable matching hood, espresso straps...

And then today my incessant stalking of the for sale or trade boards payed off for real. The mama who had bought Kashmir had found another bEco in her dream print. She was offering Kashmir back up (for the same $80, per TBW etiquette). I typed as fast as I could, hoping that by the time I posted it wouldn't be gone again. And within a minute I got a reply-- Kashmir was mine for the taking! Dashing Daddy is happy he doesn't have to go Christmas shopping for me. I'm happy because I can try this out and if it just doesn't work, I can pass it along to another mama and only be out the shipping. And then use the $80 for something else fun! But I really hope the bEco works for us. We'll see! It was so fun to find it again!

Here she is:

beco


Now I just have to wait for it to make its way from the midwest; she's shipping out tomorrow!

Feeling Fortunate

We had a lovely family holiday gathering yesterday afternoon (pics are up on flickr) and it was so much fun to be jovial with Dashing Daddy's family all around. Tiny Face had a good long nap afterwards, and then we sped off to my friend S's shindig at her new home. We got there just in time to meet the baby of a fellow teacher-- we were pregnant at the same time and TF's just a couple weeks older than this baby. She was of course beautiful, all smooth porcelain skin, and her mama is a great woman (I mean, aMAZing, inspiring-students winning-awards changing-the-world kinda great), and not to be condescending, but I just felt so fortunate that I didn't have to go back to work like she did. She works full time and runs a very demanding extracurricular program all by herself. She told me last night (and I didn't ask, so I get the impression it's kinda haunting her) that she had to stop nursing, as she just couldn't keep up supply and the baby preferred the bottle, and she felt guilty but... ...and I said what are you going to do, until our government gets wise to the benefits and starts providing maternity leave (the US is the only "first world" country that provides no universal maternity leave!). I am SO grateful I can just stay home with TF and have it be simple. I'm always there if she needs to eat, and it's so simple to fill her needs. Of course being a SAHM is also very hard. But I wouldn't be away from my sweet baby for the world. So there ya go, I've got my family around me having fun, I get to be with my dear child, I have a wonderfully supportive hubby (who is very dashing, too) who is moving on to a new job where hopefully he will be very fulfilled and continue to make $$ so I can continue to stay home, lol. And I have TF, the cutest sweetest most amazing baby in the world (verified by guinness world records, actually). Life's good!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Book Love

My mother likes to say I would read ANYthing as a child, right down to the back of the cereal box at breakfast (I would). I remember nearly walking into lamp posts while holding a book before my face as I walked on the local university campus. I'm the nerdy girl who takes a book with her everywhere, even to parties. You never know! And yes, I firmly hold that an "emergency book" tucked into the trunk or backseat of the car is a necessity. I've certainly made more use of one than, say, a jack.

Yes, I love books. And this time of year I especially love to find myself curled up with a good read, maybe a pizzelle (Italian Christmas cookie), and wintry weather outside. That last one is a bit more rare now that I live in southern California. And curling up on a couch happens about once a month, maybe, now that Tiny Face is here. But I still savored curling up last night on the wood dining chair moved to the kitchen as I sprang up every three minutes to move pizzelle from the iron to the cooling rack and spoon more dough on the iron, reading snatches of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods as they cooked. Ahhhhhh....

I need a good wintertime read still. I'll be done with poor cold tired Bryson in a couple days. I'm thinking Pratchett's The Hogfather or something deeply British and hundreds of years old. I'm sure something will find me.

And now for a look back on wintertime reads good and bad:

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis: this was entertaining, scary, moving, and all centered around rampant death at Christmastime. Yay! Definitely a good choice.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer: Why, oh why did I ever think a book about a hyperactive genius child's dealing with 9-11 was a good book to be reading directly over Christmas? Depressing and uplifting and very cool with its PoMo structure and pictures and all, this would have been better in November or January.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman: A Great Book. There was a nice wintertime interlude in the third act. Mostly bugged me how much the basic concept was like that for the book I had JUST written for NaNoWriMo the month before (without knowing about this book yet). Consuming and haunting and wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Troubling a Star by Madeleine L'Engle. Vicky sits freezing on an iceberg in Antartica. I'm glad I'm cozy at home with some Christmas mints. Mmm, perfect.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris. We like to read one essay from this at a time, on some nice familial winter night.

Tiny Face is up. Gotta go!

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Story of Stuff

Have you seen this video? I'm only partway thru it and it's striking a cord. Very SIMPLE explanation of a complicated--or is it simple?--process and problem. It kinda reminds me of the great documentary The Corporation, which I bought to use in my classroom (part of our 1984 unit of study).

http://www.storyofstuff.com/

A good kick in the pants for making all the changes we need to make... and I mean that personally and individually, as in, a good reminder for me to keep working on lessening my toll on the planet, and working to protect my family as much as I can in the meantime.

Why We Don't CIO

Well, DUH, for starters. And there's no way I could go into all our reasons in one quick post as DD naps beside me. But I've come across a couple really well written articles on the reasons why CIO is utterly unsupported by all the reliable research and, oh yeah, babies themselves, so I thought I'd link them up here. (erm, if I would take the time to figure out how to link up stuff! gotta get the nerd daddy to remind me of the code... YAY, did it!)

I just read this:
http://www.mothering.com/sections/experts/hunt-archive.html#cry-it-out
The baby is the expert! This totally clicks with how we parent! I love how it talks about babies providing immediate feedback, being programmed by nature, and just listening to your baby. I was anxious about this in the early days, because I wanted Tiny Face to know we were there for her, but WOW it's an amazing journey when you just tune in to their needs and how they communicate them, and don't let any other "noise" out there in the culture (of selling, and selling what certain parents want to hear) interfere.

Here's the salon.com article that explains the truth behind "Babywise." It's really scary how so many parents pick up this book or are gifted it; do they know the truth behind the book, its author, and his life?
http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/1998/08/cov_06feature.html

Then the classic Harvard study:
http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/1998/04.09/ChildrenNeedTou.html
Which explains that closer is indeed better.

Okay, I'm off to relax more fully and watch some of the DVD that's loaded up :) Sorry this was so half-done!

Healthy Toys!

I've added a bit inn my previous toy post about the new web site www.HealthyToys.com (and any other sources for toys I'm finding). It has tested an abundance of toys and other child/family products for toxins, and after browsing for just a few minutes I had to come here and link it up! It's shocking what's in products intended for babies. They tested and list the results for each part of the toy, too. Also, they have a list of the best toys, that were tested and had no toxins found. I'm planning on attacking some of Tiny Face's Priddy books to cut out the parts that came up with lead, PVC (the bad plastic with phthalates) and arsenic. ARSENIC!!! Yeesh. And this is a nice looking expensive cloth toy book. I hope the web site keeps testing so more and more products are fully disclosed at long last. It just shows that you can't be too careful when it comes to the things your baby will play with on a regular basis. I know it's about continued exposure, but my baby plays with those books every day! Luckily I don't think she's chewed on them too much, but she grabs them for ten minutes and then sucks on her hands... ugh! I was glad to see her Fisher Price plastic toys (made in Mexico) vindicated; her ring stacker was in the list of best toys. But mostly this makes me want to buy only from brands that are above suspicion, like Selecta and other strong European ones, and reeeeallly limit what comes into her circle of toys. It's bad enough all the toxins we're swimming in on a daily basis that are in stuff all around the house... but that's a mission for another day! One step at a time!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Botanical Gardens

I discovered the Gardens last month when the AP playgroup sent out a reminder about free Tuesdays. I went, just to have someplace nice to walk around with Sophie. It's sooooooo much better than walking around the grocery store or shopping plaza for the umpteenth time! It was magical, and we explored for nearly two hours before she seemed like she needed to go home.

Today a group of us mamas went, all wearing our babies so we could go anywhere, through the dirt paths, up and down hills, through bamboo forests, African jungles with waterfalls, native California pants, an herb garden, a walled garden, a citrus grove... whew! I still don't think I've seen the whole place and I've wandered a lot twice now. I can't wait to bring Nonna :) Today was sunny and we could see an amazing view of the ocean. It was really nice to get out and hike around!

Sophie checking out the blossoms

Sophie in the bamboo forest

Sunday, December 2, 2007

And on the Seventh Day She Rested

And so did her poor parents! Sophie may have wiggled a lot in the morning and gotten up at 5am, but the HOURS of undisrupted sleep all night, with maybe a quick cuddle and nursing in there somewhere, were heavenly! We almost made it to early mass, but ended up going later, and she was a complete riot and wanted to walk around nonstop, so it was pretty crazy for her poor mama. Still, a peaceful moment in the midst of a crazy world and time of year, with some nice thoughts on focusing on people for Christmas and preparing for Christ in our lives.

So last night we all went to the town's Holiday Parade. We had planned on getting downtown "early" but were running a bit late, still pretty early.... but soon we were stuck in traffic and saw families disembarking from cars parked in the shopping center still a ways from the 101. So we made a quick decision, or even acted without thinking, and pulled into the Denny's parking lot. Lots of others were doing the same. We learned later there were shuttles but we had a marvelous walk down to the coast, and after the parade it was sweet to walk under the stars as Sophie went suddenly to sleep.

We walked all up and down the parade route, ducking into interesting-looking stores, checking out the rather small Christmas tree down at the shopping center at the end (pictured)...
The tree

Looking at the tree (the Christmas tree)
running into our next door neighbors (!) and enjoying the whole air of frivolity and holiday spirit. Sophie totally loved watching the parade , checking out all the many, many entries. She watched a while in the wrap on me, and then later in Daddy's arms for a change, and she made friends with a little 9 month old boy who came out of his stroller to play. The two little old ladies sitting next to where we stood finally noticed Sophie and loved on her the rest of the night. Aunt Emily and her friend Lindsay came by for a while and Sophie stayed awake and happy the whole parade, conking out as soon as we walked back up for a hot meal we took to make our parking job legal. She slept a good long time, woke up to dazzle the other patrons (mostly other parade goers and marchers), and went out easily again once we were home and cozy and had a loooong nurse. It was a wonderful family event and now a great memory for us. Pics are on flickr; here are a few....

Smiling

Watching the parade with Daddy

Family together

There goes a fire truck!

Sophie loved watching the parade




Saturday, December 1, 2007

Bad Nights and Good Mornings

Well, the sleep-deprivation experiment continues, although last night it was just periodic squirming and whining, not getting up for two hours to forestall that. But still not great sleep, and rather tedious.

But this morning I got up with Tiny Face, and got her changed (yay, stripping the diapers with Dawn totally worked and they are no longer leaking overnight!) and glanced outside. It. was. gorgeous. We were cooped up inside alllll day yesterday by the rain, which was persistently steady. So I dashed to throw on some clothes (we'd wash later) and threw her in the wrap and burst out into the morning. The sun was shining, there were big white clouds riding the sky, and some pregnant with rain off to the northeast. There was "glory light" pouring out of a break in the thicker clouds to the south. The eucalyptus trees were dark and high against the blue sky, and the vaulting branches and clouds created a feeling that we were in nature's cathedral. We enjoyed our walk all the way down the nave, er, big street, to Starbucks, saw a mama with a babe in a frame backpack and got smiles from folks, and trooped back home. We sang and bounced and laughed and when we got back Sophie nursed a long time, ands then was kinda mellow... for a little while. Now she's been shrieking and laughing with Mommy and Daddy. Some pics from this morning (more on flickr)....

Happy

It's Daddy!!!!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Danger in Toyland

...and it ain't some creepy melodrama villain after Annette Funicelli and Dick van Dyke!

It almost seems like a blessing that all these toy recalls have happened in the last year or so. Finally the idea that the products we buy for our littlest community members need to undergo the highest scrutiny is gaining visibility, as well as the idea that products created by slavery-like factories in a very unregulated country might not be of the highest quality!

We're working on buying things made locally, and then in the USA, and then by scrupulous countries, not just for toys but for all things. I need a new water bottle, and Sigg is both safe for me and my breastfeeding and occasionally water-sipping baby, and it's produced by a country that's meticulous in creating its products without harming the environment. And I'm okay that this once every several years purchase is not a local one. We do the farmer's market, buy things made by work-at-home moms locally, and also just try to reduce the amount of stuff we require from the earth, too.

Okay, so getting back to toys. There are a couple of points that are shaping the purchases of my friends it seems (forgive the overlap, etc.):
1) Not made in China (NMIC), but also not made in other unreliable and unethical countries...and this just might include the USA! See below....
2) Ah yes, ethical purchases! Why support a country's economy when it's subjecting its people to human rights abuses (Howdy, China!), or tacitly encouraging the child sex trade (hello, Thailand!)?
3) Safest for our babies. Now, it surprised me to learn that Europe has much higher standards regarding toys than the US. So European toys are likely the best bet. They don't allow phthalates in toys, which is a big one for me. Companies that sell to a broader market actually adjust their products to meet the European criteria, so it CAN be done! I'd rather get the Euro toys than the ones made especially for US babies with this very dangerous plastic modifier.
4) Wood, metal, or cloth toys only. This goes along with finding the safest toys. Cut plastic out of the equation completely. Now, you have to be careful here, because just because a toy isn't plastic doesn't automatically make it safe. Those recalled Thomas trains were metal with lead paint, MIC. And lots of wooden toys are MIC, too, like Melissa and Doug toys. So we are left searching for safe options. I'm trying to collect some resources on that, which I'll include below.
5) Playability vs. marketability. Most of my friends are staying away from branded characters, like Dora, Disney princesses, and Elmo. Experts agree that toys are better when kids can get more play out of them, when they are not tied down to recreating storylines from a TV show or using a toy in only one way. Open-ended toys, like those typically made by good US and Euro companies, will offer more fun and be used by children for generations.
5) Quality over quantity. This is something we're trying to abide by for our whole lives, but it's especially good to remember around Christmas time, and especially for babies. Babies don't need a million toys. Even my daughter, who loves "the new," just needs us to rotate which toys make an appearance in her life, and suddenly they are new and exciting! I'd rather give her a few high quality toys that are safe and fun, than a hundred low quality plastic toys.

Okay, so where do we turn for these safe and ethical and play-full toys?

Oompa Toys is a good place to start because it lists products by country.( http://www.oompa.com/ )
Amazon has Haba Toys--some of this brand, like the cloth ones, are MIC, but the wooden ones tend to be made in Germany, and each product makes it clear (well, if it says, "lovingly designed in Germany" that's probably a good hint it was manufactured in China). There are natural toy shops in a lot of towns now that can address these concerns, too. I found some strong research on this issue as well as resources for good toys in the last issue of Mothering Magazine, which should still be out now (I get mine at B&N). I'll add more as I see links on the ongoing online discussions of this. Add those that you find, too!

((Here's another good site I just found advertising on TBW: http://www.downtoearthtoys.com/ )))

Hopefully, as we strive to provide the best environment for our little one, while being kind to the greater environment, we'll work to model this behavior in all the things we use and purchases we make. China is the factory of the world right now, so it's virtually impossible. Some purchases are just made. But we can cut down on what we purchase. While our house is full of stuff manufactured on the cheap of cheap plastic and other materials, we can at least go on using it, rather than demand new products of the earth. And when the time comes to replace a few of the things, we can look to local and high quality sources.

For now, we'll have some fun playing!

Additional Resources I've come across:
www.healthytoys.org/ is a new website that most parents are saying is indispensable. It will also give us a chance to get the movement for safe toys and products some more attention. It's shocking how many products have lead in them, for instance, like shoes from Target. Of course kids try to chew on shoes! Ai yai yai! I try to be a laid-back mom and let my kid get into the dirt and all, but it's hard when the dirt may be on lead-carrying shoes or pesticide-laced grass... well, getting informed is going to be the first step!

Blessings

Okay, Thanksgiving was last week, but it's not too late for a few reflections, as well as some thoughts that have been rolling around in my head for a while now. Especially because this week Tiny Face is conducting a sleep-deprivation experiment with me as her principal subject. Greetings from 3am!

We had Thanksgiving at our place this year, which was really nice for TF's first real holiday. Dashing Daddy's family came over and it was the whole feast/football deal. Here are some pics:

TG centerpiece

TG centerpiece closeup

turkey cake with no flash

Our Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving Day Feast!

Sophie on Thanksgiving

I did placemats with various literary quotations on the theme of thankfulness/gratitude, because TF loves to yank on table cloths, so they were out! Cloth napkins of course, tied with raffia. Turkey, homemade gravy that wouldn't thicken so I added more and more flour and then it thickened half an hour later wayyyy too much, sweet potatoes with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, nice steamed green beans, corn, and peas, mashed red potatoes, apricot-cranberry sauce, cornbread apple stuffing, homemade pumpkin pie (even homemade crust my mom taught me to make, and homemade whipped cream), and that chocolate cake with a turkey design.... yep, it was a feast! And most importantly, we had a great time all hanging out together. When I think back to holidays as a kid, that's what I like best, and what I treasure now even-- how we can all just hang out together, maybe getting a bit silly, maybe just sitting around watching a movie and grabbing leftovers from the fridge, just being relaxed and together. Family.

So obviously I was thinking through cooking up cornbread and printing up placemats how grateful I am for my life. And this is something I've tried to do for a long time; simply, count my blessings. Whenever I felt persnickety about having to lug a load of textbooks from the library to my classroom, I'd try to focus on what a beautiful day it was on our peaceful campus, and now when I'm serving as a sleep deprivation test subject, I try to remember how fortunate I am to have my healthy baby, and to live in a place of relative peace and safety and privilege. And even the fact that my baby can't go 40 minutes without waking/needing to be nursed/patted and can't sleep without me by her side, won't even go down by herself for a couple hours at the start of the night, which is all our normal (not like the wiggle-every-twenty-minutes hijinks of this week), and she always needed to be moving even from one month old, and won't let me simply nurse her down on the bed but must be walked (not rocked! nothing so comfy) and nursed and walked and nursed, and can't handle noisy crowds indoors like say a mom's group where I can socialize.... whew! And dude, even my fellow AP moms talk about how they can do all that stuff with their babies, so it's the baby, not the parenting.... But then I realize that I have a rare husband who truly sees our life as a partnership, including raising our daughter, cooking, laundry, cleaning, and taking care of each other. Truly a gem. So we all get a break somewhere.

When the wildfires were heading towards our house and the news was saying the big one would very likely tear through our neighborhood overnight, I found myself realizing that I was totally okay if my house burned down. We had gotten prepared that morning and had all essential documents and memorabilia (mostly) and it was okay if all our stuff was gone. We had our family safe. It was rather freeing to realized I really was okay with the idea of shedding the majority of our material stuff. Not to diminish the loss of the fire victims, but the idea of purging away all the accumulated dross was appealing. I think reducing our load of stuff is a goal to pursue now. And I'm thankful that the real good things in my life aren't stuff but my family and friends.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's 10:00...

Tiny Face woke up a little before 5am. She went to sleep soooo early last night, before 6pm. Of course it was a bit of a challenge to KEEP her asleep all evening but worth it as I got to eat pizza in bed, brought to me by my sweet husband, and we got to watch a movie together all the way through! I got up pretty game, thinking she had done this a few times last week and was all cuddly and went down again pretty soon. HA!

OVER FOUR HOURS LATER she finally goes down for a 40 minute nap. Now we're back up again. OH boy.

Did I mention it was one of those wiggle-every-ten-minutes nights last night? Whew. We had fun this morning but when I needed breakfast she was not letting me put her down or even eat without grabbing at my food before I could get it anywhere near my mouth. I was so hungry and tired! I know there was probably an easier way to deal, but I swear my IQ is dropping steadily. Something about not being able to have a long train of thought.

At least she's pretty happy these days when I'm playing directly with her. Fun! But demanding in terms of getting a chance to eat or comb my hair. Which I still haven't done this morning. Yeesh. Better do that before I can escape out to the fabric store. Where's that hat....

The Agony of Defeat... and the Contentment of Watching Too Much TV

So... I can win NaNoWriMo with a bad cold. I bet I could win it with a 7 month old, too. But a bad cold plus a 7 month old? I surrender!

It was already so hard to try to scrape out a few minutes here and there to write. And I write best when I can get going, after close to a thousand words; the ball just starts rolling and I can do several thousand in a sitting. It was already incredibly frustrating to try to write while stopping every ten minutes to position Tiny Face on my boob to nurse (as she slept-- she'd wake and whine and I'd try to keep her asleep so I could write!). When I got the cold and I was even more tired than I've been the last seven months? YEAH. When Dashing Daddy took her to walk her down for the night or she fell asleep, all I wanted to do was sleep or watch very mentally unchallenging television. The good news is, the pressure of November made me revisit my novel from last year and do a ton of planning for book number 2. I just have to go with the flow now, in motherhood. And I can say, as a two-time writer/winner of NaNo, it was just not the same this year, and at 20,000 or so it was time for a break. We can do another challenge in January.

So, we're back to normal life. Better post a few things about Thanksgiving and other thoughts that have been tumbling around inside my head... in a little bit.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Out of the frying pan...

They're in another forest. Yup, straight from one to another. My MC (main character) even has powers of magical transportation (I gave her this just so I wouldn't have to write all the traveling scenes I was still OVER from the first book), and yet... at least I know basically what's happening next, it's just the filling out that's a challenge. Ugh, just got to get started and it'll all roll along. I can always make it veryveryvery short and plan to come back later and fill it out, and just get them back out on their main quest for this book! But I know if I stick with it, I'll start typing in all these little interactions and details that I didn't know existed among the characters. At least I know they are going to a temple on the coast, a sybil's cave, a desert, and the moon before the end of the book! And then out to sea! Yay, no more slogging through forests!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

NaNoWriMo Ate My Donut

Okay, NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul is the forum for novelists in distress, but I'm doing okay. Maybe just like NaNo stole my delicious pastry. I am on target thus far for my word count. I'm finding the time to write during Tiny Face's first nap of the day, when I am not in such dire need of a nap myself. Noveling in the morning, napping in the afternoon, maybe a little more noveling at night, or some DVR TV with the Dashing Daddy. Not a bad life! Of course I've always had a week off for Thanksgiving, as high school teacher, which usually involved either preparing a feast for many or traveling to Davis as well as grading many papers, but also affording gobs of free time for making a push through catching up, getting ahead, and getting through the tricky middle of the book. We'll see how I slog through that push this year. Everyone seems to say week two hits you the hardest (the old name for the distress forum used to be I Hate Myself and Want to Die, and it got many hits with week two), but I think it's when you realize you can do this, but you have so much story to get through and bring together and bring to a crescendo. And you have enough done that you can see what it's actually becoming, and you can compare this to the ideas you had when you began... Yikes! Don't want to psych myself out early! Besides, what am I doing wasting precious words on my blog? Well, it's okay, I've finished today's word count quota as well: 6,753 outta 50,000. And I finally finished the first chapter and got them the hell outta that dang forest!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

National Last-Minute Pre-Writing Day

8:02AM--I begin brainstorming some new threads of plot while Tiny Face squirms on my lap and manages to drag furniture over a few feet... I have SO many things to nail down still! I CAN just write and see where things go, but last year's well-planned, plotted, character-developed novel was far better than the by-the-seat-of-my-pants plotless wonder of the previous year, so... we'll try to have at least a few days' worth of writing planned out! Or, I can always start out totally behind by the first writing weekend! Wheeee! Here we go!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Now THAT'S Scary

Happy Halloween! I don't like a lot of how this is celebrated these days, but I love me some cute costumes. I love make-believe! And for November I get to act like a kid again and make-believe my way through 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month. Of course, I have to finish the outline for this novel...in this one last day... EEK!!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Victory is Mine!

Now I have TWO computers that function! And away we go with NaNoWriMo! Hopefully I'll spend all my time on my computer actually writing my novel, but I bet I'll pop in here for a baby update or two.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Curses!

Or maybe my laptop jack IS broken, which is what I told Mr. Firedog two weeks ago. When he tested it and said no, it's the cord, and here's a shiny new one for $140 dollars. Then I found the cord I really needed for $70. Hmmm.... Damn you, Firedog! I'm so going to the Nerd Herd next time.

Hopefully I'll be back online again in a week or so.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Too much of my life is on my computer

Okay, not really, because I appreciate my lovely little cheapo laptop (it's all silver and purdy and so wide, kinda like me LOL), but when my powercord died on me over a week ago, I thought I was gonna die too. I finally got a replacement today (shopping around is hard without... you know, a computer to research parts, prices, etc.) and I'm trying to catch up. I missed Blog Action Day (wah!), so I just want to say I think my daughter's taking me on a journey of investing the time to discover what I can do better for the planet and her future. For instance, I now clean with pretty much just water and vinegar (I'm still working on toilets, floors--gotta new recipe to try!--and stained coated kitchen sinks--any suggestions there? Baking soda did zip). And I use ziploc bags and paper towels with a dose of guilt now! Just kidding; I am working on taking things step by step. Hopefully in a year we'll use far fewer disposable products and also have healthier food storage/container options. Then there's the whole sweatshop clothes issue... it's HARD to buy all secondhand or even pricey fair pay (and organic?) clothes when you are still wearing almost all of your pregnancy weight! And trying to scrimp money so you can keep being a stay at home mom as long as possible. But I shop at Target with a dose of guilt too. Although I lurve my new $10 shoes that I can slip on and off while wearing/holding Sophie, and the fancy Birkenstock etc shoe store had diddlysquat for me and I was getting desperate because it was raining in San Diego! ANYWAY... obviously there are a lot of things I'm going to be trying out, and hopefully I'll be sharing the successes here. Here's what I'm already doing...
--Cloth diapers. Easy, sooo luxurious I think for baby, and we use biodegradable laundry wash, too.
--Reusing whenever possible. Yes, I WILL take your old baby clothes! NO I don't care exactly what style of clothes they are because she's a baby and couldn't care less, but I bet she wants a planet to live on 40 years from now... Plus she gets plenty of new stylin' stuff as gifts :) Yes, I'll buy your used wrap or mei tai! Yes I will use my library instead of relocating an entire forest to my bookshelves (okay, ANOTHER forest because dang I've got a lot of books).
--Breastfeeding. It uses no extra resources of growing ingredients or tending the cows for the milk, etc, of creating, packaging, shipping, storing in stores with lights and workers and driving to the store--all as formula does. Nope, just me eating, which hey, I was gonna do anyway! Plus it way cuts down on my chances of breast cancer and Sophie's, too! (Just throwing that in there for October!)

All right, that's enough for now. Thank goodness my laptop is back, because I need to finish reading the novel I wrote last year before this year's NaNoWriMo...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Simpsons are AP! ....kinda

Did you see this week's The Simpsons? Yeah we DVR it. I had one of those moments (you know what I'm talking about!) where you realize a show is going to touch on a close-to-home issue, and you're either going to love your little show more than ever, or scream at the TV and never feel quite the same way about it again.

Okay, so not the part where Homer strangles his son... that's not very gentle discipline of him, and I'm sure Alfie Kohn would have a few things to say about that. And certainly not the extended bit about Homer looking for milk (MILK? Not even formula?) Too bad Marge doesn't seem to breastfeed... we've seen Maggie with bottles while being babysat, along with her adopted cousin, but now I guess we're supposed to think it's not expressed human milk. Granted, Maggie's been a baby for a long time but as she's not even speaking it seems cow's milk should not be on her menu.

Okay, yes, I'm laughing at this; no need to overanalyze! But I did think the part about CRIE was a very clever critique of the whole movement to get babies to be independent.

Yeah, let's parse that sentence. Babies should be independent? Wha...? Seems silly but so may parents seem in a hurry to get their kids to sleep alone, to not rely on parents for comfort during the day or night, or to rely on mom for nourishment, or for holding a bottle... And it's all validated by a refrain saying babies need to be taught to be independent. (Again, where did this idea come from? They are BABIES! Humans throughout history have held them close 24-7 for thousands of years... it's what babies are designed for, in fact. Anyway.)

So The Simpsons takes that idea of babies needing to be made independent, and pushes it to a ridiculous extreme. After a very funny bit about how kids can handle computers far better than adults (sorry Mom, but we've SO played that scene!), Marge looks up a program with the acronym CRIE (ha-ha), something like creative responses for independent edu-love or whatever (I was watching this show after a full day of mothering my baby and she was sleeping cuddled next to me and I probably was latching her on at the time!). And Lisa notes that the experts at CRIE can help you anytime because they don't have any families of their own. Slam! Just like Suppernanny and Ezzo (evil author of the idiotic Babywise) and others who have no degrees even in child development or infant biology or anything, let alone actually HAVING KIDS OF THEIR OWN (okay, Ezzo has kids but apparently they have cut him out of their lives). Nice!

So this woman comes to the house and forces Marge to leave Maggie alone on the floor, pointing at Maggie before they leave and saying forcefully, "Actualize!" The woman (who inexplicably looks sorta like a hippie-- did the show artists get mixed up? The hippies are attachment parents! This is like when the preppy mom on ER who match their kids' clothes to their own were also all into traditional babywearing... huh?) physically restrains Marge from returning to Maggie when she starts crying (ah, mama hormones kicking in! Yes, we are built to have a gut-wrenching response to baby's cries... I got upset just hearing what was probably an adult actor making Maggie's cry sound.. but then again I still have to struggle not to let down when someone is leaving their newborn screaming in the stroller at the toy store...). But then Maggie turns out okay (too bad Cry It Out doesn't work in 30 seconds like that, in real life!) and starts doing everything for herself, making herself breakfast (again--- a whole banana for this baby? but now we are in the realm of satire), and even riding the dog to Guidoville to save Homer from an evil tow truck driver. Obviously the show is taking the idea of babies being independent and blowing it up, so hopefully people will see how ridiculous that idea is. And those of us who get it, that of course babies aren't meant to be independent, but that it's our job to foster a strong foundation of secure attachment, which will in turn allow them to freely explore and become very independent (but not TOO unattached-- we want them to have strong bonds to future wives and husbands and kids and US down the line too!).

And Maggie punching out the sack of potatoes that Marge had taken to cuddling in her absence, and sticking her pacifier in Marge's mouth when her mom tried to repeat the expert's advice that "hugs are drugs" to which Maggie was addicted, and Maggie ending the show in her mother's embrace... that was a nice cap to this cute satire. I think ultimately it was saying, don't mind the "experts" (who probably have no credentials like relevant degrees or kids of their own), because you are the expert on your baby, and just following your instincts (unadulterated by the chatter of expert advice through the media) won't take you astray.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Nobody's Hero

Okay my blog heading may reference "our heroine" but that's just my nod to classic tales of adventure and discovery and growth, like Tom Jones. Because I'm a nerd, that's why.

But I had a funny experience at the hair salon last week... oh holy monkeys my kid knows when I'm trying to write, this or my novel, because she invariably awakes just when I get going... oh, okay, she nodded back off to sleep... phew! Anyway my mom was holding Tiny Face for me while I had my first hair cut since before that five month old was born! So everyone sees The Cutest Baby of All Time and Perhaps Even Longer and of course we're chatting about her as I get my shampoo and cut... and I don't offer the information but the question is asked and I answer honestly: I had a natural birth. No, not just not a cesarean section ("natural" is not a euphemism for vaginal!), no drugs. That's right, no epidural. Nope.

And it starts.

"Wow, NONE? You're hardcore! You're a hero!"

Hmm. This is a whole topic of debate, I know: What is a Hero? It came up after 9-11 of course, and we debate it and read arguments and the like in my ninth grade English class and even with my AP seniors when we read Beowulf (Oh yes, I teach English when I'm not on mommy leave; please don't judge me, because ) . Joseph Campbell and all that, and then firefighters and "my mom" or "Rosa Parks," and all that.

But when I consider my birth choices (and they were carefully researched and thought out choices, not simply going along with what I've seen on TV or what my first rather horrendous OB told me), being a hero didn't factor into it at all.

Okay now she is awake and I'll be back to explain what the heck I mean!

((((Okay, sorry! Tiny Face has had a bad cold and is just over it! Okay, where was I?...)))

Ah, yes! What DID factor into it was this: selfishness. Yup, I'm selfish. I read that epidurals affect the baby and can stay in her system for weeks, and can affect breastfeeding and more. I read that epidurals can slow down birthing and even stall it, leading to a C-section, and I read that the infant mortality rate triples with a C-section. I read that epidurals can cause a low fever and then you and the baby have to get IV antibiotics because it might be an infection, and again this could cause folks to start watching the clock and to push to towards a C-section. I read that epidurals have a surprisingly high rate of failing to work completely, and that you only get it when the anesthesiologist is available, and after several centimeters anyway, and they let it wear off for pushing, so you better have coping strategies ready anyway. I read that they also have a surprisingly high rate of causing complications for the mother, such as back pain, headaches, and so forth.

I read good things, too. I read that when birth is allowed to unfold naturally, without interventions that research show do not improve outcomes for mom or baby, and without watching of the clock and pressure to "make progress," and without doctors changing on you and nurses asking about pain and being tied to a bed and beeping machines... it tends not to stall. I read that if you remove the idea that birth is scary and painful in a damaging way that your body will remain relaxed and it will hurt less and move faster. I read that moving around into the positions that intuitively feel good will move things along, and help prevent tearing. I read that having a doula tends to reduce complications. I read that birth is not a medical event like being sick or injured, but something we women are beautifully designed to perform.

Well, I'm selfish. I don't want lasting complications from birth, or tearing. Ick. And I don't want my baby starting life pumped full of drugs. I don't want my baby placed in any more risk than comes with just entering and living life. $And, baby, I am SOLD on the idea of less pain!

So yeah, it wasn't heroics that led me to my natural birth. It was just reading the statistics on difference choices (and discovering, hey, they ARE choices, not mandates) and seeing which was less likely to hurt my baby and myself. It was a purely pragmatic issue.

Now, I can go all into how the actual experience ended up being revelatory and empowering and a major life event that I believe is essential to my being a woman... but while the salon is kind of hippie-slanted, the stylists there that day definitely were not, so I just stuck to the facts. And the facts are very straightforward here. Don't get me started on the USA's woeful infant mortality and mother mortality rates, or how no one seems to care that mothers are treated so shabbily... at my birth I was treated like a woman, not a patient or a womb/vagina/incubator, or as secondary to all the fancy machines at our disposal in this wonderful day and age, or to the potential lawsuits that also feature so importantly in doctors' decisions this day and age! But sticking just to the bald facts, my choice was clear. I'm all for women making the choice they feel is best for them (and I'm grateful we have medical resources available for true emergencies--but most births aren't and using them then can create complications rather than forestall them), but I feel that the information just can't be making it to all of them. And I'm an educator, so spreading information is sort of important to me. I know I was very grateful for the women who turned me on to the books and other resources that shared the facts with me.

Including my mom, because she's my hero!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Riding the Wave's Crest

Niggling in the back of my head is the oft-repeated phrase of parents, "This too shall pass." We sing it to each other like a prayer or lullaby when our children are going through some maddening phase, like refusing to be put down even within your sight while you put on your pants, or waking all night long ready to party for hours. We remember that it's all going to change again next week.
So I'm trying to be humbly grateful for what I admit will likely be a crest in the many waves of parenting, enjoying the high while it lasts, before we take another tour of the low.

My daughter let me rock her to sleep. In the comfy recliner we got off craigslist for our nursery. Cozied up against my tummy. She didn't jab her legs into my thigh or grunt or cry (Sophie-speak for "Giddy up, Mama! You must walk me for twenty to ninety minutes for me to go to sleep!"). I loved cuddling, and my back loved sitting. And... she's let me do this several times now. Plus, she's dropped into dreamland like pearls slipping off a string, a few moans as she likes to emit before sleeping, and she's out, while we've been downstairs bouncing for mere minutes or sitting in the patio or out in the park.

I think maybe she's just getting the hang of going to sleep, but I also have to give myself credit for being in tune with her rhythm of waking and sleeping. It's a dance and we're each learning as we go.

Then there's the whole part where she's totally fun and endearing. Seriously, your cuddliest cartoon bunnies don't stand a chance next to my kid. Her cuteness quotient is just through the roof. It's all about the giggles and smiles and attempts to eat my face with her these days (the latter being part of what we've dubbed the "Sophie-Monster" game). My funny noises and singing and flying her through the air are earning rave reviews from her. She still freaks out with groups in enclosed spaces like the mom's group I attend or restaurants, but far and away this kid is just so darn easy to hang out with. She loves to ride along with me through periods of chores, too. When she needs a break and more attention, it's normally good for me to stop and take a break by then anyway.

Egad, what terrifying two year old tantrums or maddening teenage surliness will surely come calling in karmic reimbursement for this golden-child near-five-month-old?

Whatever. I am thankful for this day, and my daughter's happiness. I'm riding the wave.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Playing Cocoon

How do people with babies survive without babywearing? While pregnant I aspired to be a slinging mama, wearing my baby all day. Visions of strapping my baby on my back while I worked in the fields (what fields are these?) got confused in there somehow as well. But after the birth, I admit I was content to just hold my baby. After a few days we tried out the ring sling, which worked fairly well after we went down to the shop on the 101, Nature's Mother (http://www.naturesmom.com/), and the kindly owner Sara showed us just exactly how we were doing it wrong.

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Since Sophie only ever wanted to be on me or my husband, I got excited about babywearing. I started attending the local group that had just started meeting at Ama Mama, and searched for a two-shoulder carrier, because the ring sling didn't seem all that comfy to me. I still was using one hand to secure Sophie at all times. Yeah, I was probably still doing it wrong, but apparently I needed more than one lesson to learn that. I excitedly ordered a Babyhawk (http://www.babyhawk.com/), nearly giving myself an anyurism trying to choose the two patterns of fabric for my reversible dream carrier (and the company adding lovely fabrics as I browsed was not helping!). I finally chose blue taffy and bohemian green--the latter of which is incredibly pretty and perfect for me.

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To my dismay, Sophie hated riding in the Babyhawk unless she was asleep. She was still so small she had to ride with her legs "froggy style" which is a natural pose for newborns, but someone forgot to tell my daughter that in the briefing babies get as they prepare for the great parachute jump out f the womb. So I was reduced to popping Sophie out whever she awoke and struggling to carry her and the fabric with its long straps before and after naps, and teetering Sophie on chairs as I tied it on as she was nodding off. Right now she tolerates the adjustable Mei Tai Baby (http://meitaibaby.com/) that I picked up secondhand off TheBabyWearer.com because her legs can hang out. Soon she'll be big enough to hug her legs around me and enjoy the Babyhawk.

But our deliverance came in the form of a stretchy wrap. A Gypsy Mama Bali Baby Stretch (http://www.gypsymama.com/) in Aphrodite and Fortuna. (Of course I got two. They're like tee shirts, in terms of softness and sturdiness of the fabric as well as in how they can pick up my nursing-mama stink, which is only combated these days by a Crystal Stick, which is kind of like Iraq.) Anyway, I tried one out at a NINO (Nine In Nine Out; it's since changed to Babywearers International) and my daughter amazingly was content in it. She faced in but could look all about, the perfect balance of needing to see and explore the world and be able to retreat into Mama's bosom for sensory relief or look into my face to see what I thought, that everything was okay. She could have her legs free. It was uber-comfy for me. The ends of the wrap were tapered so there wasn't a ton of excess fabric on me. And I could wrap at home and pop Sophie in an out all I wanted while at the store. That was essential for us, because she nurses all the time and poops nearly as frequently.

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When I started looking into babywearing, I was thinking slings. I looked at hotsling pouches online. I conceded that a mei tai might work out okay, but I thought the woman I saw wearing her baby in one, at a Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds concert, was pretty daring. I rejected the idea of wrapping because it seemed like too much fabric, too much of a learning curve, and too out there. Of course, my baby ended up being a wrap baby. I forgot it wasn't my decision at all! Once again, she's showing me the wisdom of trying things her way.

Now big chunks of the day, I'm wearing Sophie, whenever I need to get something done but include her too. I cleaned my whole house today wearing her. Dishes, laundry, vacuuming (she loves this, nods right off), tidying up... we can do it all. I have her right there with me, and she's happy to ride along, drinking it all in. She's easier to get down for a nap after a stretch of babywearing, and gets less stressed out than when I tried to put her down for everything. We go for long walks and she laughs as she gazes over the sunrise and spins her head up and dangles it back to see the tops of lampposts and trees. I feel so capable and free with this simple yet amazing tool, something women have used for centuries, and yet something that still gets comments about how "they didn't have that in my day." I get stares, and compliments. I haven't had to buy a stroller yet. I get my baby with me, and I get stuff done!

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Why does the house smell like pickles?

That's the question I'm worried my husband will ask when he gets home. I ponder teasing him with threats of being pregnant again, but before I can enjoy visualizing the apoplexy's effect on his facial expression, the smell of the vinegar fades.

This week was the great green cleaning experiment. Motivated by a desire to get the house cleaned while wearing my daughter Sophie in my wrap, I finally got my shit together and mixed a little white distilled vinegar in a bunch of water in a spray bottle from Costco. The bottle came in a four pack and I dutifully checked off which type of cleaner I was brewing up. with a black Sharpie, and gleefully crossed out "hazardous" and labeled the ingredients. The bottle was also professional grade and when the light squirts I aimed at the bathroom mirror and then even the cloth cleaning towel resulted in a explosive mist bouncing back at my four month old and me, I was especially glad that all it contained was vinegar and "H2O."

Oh, yes, I also got cloth microfiber towels. How environmental am I? And I scored a deal by buying a pack in the automotive section of the store rather than shelling out $3-5 each in the cleaning section. I mean, they're just for wiping on dirty stuff, right? But I hope they get more absorbant after a wash. That back-spray was harsh. I don't want to pickle my baby.

Pictures of my gleaming bathroom and sliding glass main entryway coming soon! I could hardly believe how well this simple solution (as on concoction, although it solved the problem of keeping toxic chemicals away from Sophie as well) worked. No smudges or streaks, and it's multisurface! And after it all dried and I washed my hands, there was no smell at all.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Creative Chaos

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So writing is blog is a good test of how much writing time I can work into my days with my daughter... and it's not going well! I'll be participating in NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) in November and it requires an average of 1,667 words per day to finish 50K in the month. I've succeeded the past two years, and I'm planning on writing the sequel to last year's novel... but I hope I have enough time to write it all. And to prepare, reading the first novel, devoting the time needed for brainstorming and planning and plot outlining. I did an enormous amount of prewriting last year and it paid off in my best fiction yet, so I'm torn between Sophie-time and novel-time. Hopefully it can become more organic as we both figure it out.

For instance, I'm now typing with one hand as I hold her and a book in another. Watch the quality of writing plummet!

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But Sophie shows me all these crazy, spontaneous, invigorating actions and reactions that I thank her for; they help me appreciate life, and they remind me of the energy and creativity on which writing thrives. For instance, she'll try to do two things at once, like cry and smile, or nurse and chew on her hand. And on one hand she can't figure it out, but on another, why choose just one? Can't our life encompass it all? There's this gleeful, unconscious acceptance of all of life there. And then I'll be kissing her face, nibbling on her cheeks, and she'll open her mouth to do the same to me. And soon it's a dance as we swish our faces back and forth, accompanying ourselves with squeals and giggles. And just a few minutes ago she tried to "kiss" me this way, and promptly burped into my cheek. "Thank you," I said.

And I was grateful. Especially because about fifteen seconds later she decided to look around, away from my face, before spitting up.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Life Breaking In

Okay, I'll admit it; I'm an English major. Not only that, but I'm an English teacher. Now, don't start editing my posts, because I'm primarily online and typing with one hand (or maybe half a hand!) as I nurse my baby girl. But anyway, I have a heap of favorite authors and favorite quotations, and one such author is Virginia Woolf, and one of my favorite quotations of hers is regarding her novel Mrs. Dalloway (It's my favorite comedy in all of literature--A comedy? you may ask--just wait for more on that). If you haven't read it, it's this stream of consciousness novel about one day (and many flashbacks) in which Clarissa Dalloway puts together a party. Yup. That's it. But her double in the novel, Septimus (spoiler alert! Hmm, does one do spoiler alerts for early 20th century stream of consciousness novels?) is experiencing post traumatic stress from the world war and ultimately commits suicide. Woolf had planned on having Clarissa do the same, but instead she chooses to live, to back into the party she has created. And Woolf explains, "I meant to write about death, but life kept breaking in as usual." So the party represents life, the transient joy of the moment, and Woolf ended up writing a comedy, an affirmation of life, rather than a tragedy. And this is my favorite kind of comedy, one that reaches its arms around the horrors and sirens and regrets and limitations of human life, but still revels in the small daily joys that actually make life rather wonderful--the bells, the flowers, the parties, the moments of exultation.

I chose "Life Breaking In" as a blog name because I'm trying to appreciate life as a stream of those bright moments, and also because it seems that life really will "break in" and gently pry the lists of expectations and well-rehearsed, perfectly-envisioned scenes of living to which one might have been clinging, and instead beat you about the head with distress, or toss you up on a wave of sudden joy, or just lead you through permutations and different paths than those you were trodding along. And I want to be open to that. I'm pretty open to new things, and I'm trying a lot out right now, and pushing myself towards more. New thing Number One: being responsible for a tiny human being's life and upbringing. Then there's taking a break from teaching to devote time to that, learning how to keep house without poisoning the environment or my baby, exploring and using parenting techniques and products, writing the second in a planned trilogy of novels, keeping up with my reading, and pushing myself to make more friends in the area (worse than approaching another single person at a bar/party/etc.: approaching a mom and her child at the local park). So hopefully I'll get the chance to capture some of these moments, these daily adventures, here. Hopefully it'll all make for a wonderful comedy.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chiaroscuro

So today as I'm watching my four month old daughter mesmerized by the palm tree shadows stroking the hot glaring patio concrete, I think, that's how it always is. Blazing hot joy and dark streaks of sorrow. Or maybe just monotony and exhaustion. Hey, I am a new mom. But yeah, my daughter's pixie face morphing into a fat grin festooned with a thousand chins--they way she seems to play cute and innocent and coo up at me after nursing, but with utter confidence in her enthrallment of me--how she wakes smiling with round, shallow blue eyes, looking around for me or her daddy--yeah, those will go nicely with the tedium of tiredness. In fact, the brightness is rather overwhelming.


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