Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wordless... Thursday

I forgot to post this yesterday! (My brain is already foggy!)



.



P.S. Have you ever Googled "positive pregnancy tests" and looked through the photos? 
Go do it. Hilarious.





Friday, December 3, 2010

Mirror, Mirror

I caught Uli, playing with a baby doll, talking to her reflection in a mirror.

Uli: Sing?
Mirror Uli: Yes [nodding emphatically]
Uli: ABCs! [singing] A, B, C, D...
Mirror Uli: [shaking her head] No, no ABCs.
Uli: Okay. Okay. Bitsy. (i.e. Itsy Bitsy Spider)
Mirror Uli: Yes! [pause] No. [head shake] ABCs.
Uli: Okay. [singing] A, B, C, D... [etc. Gets a little shaky in the middle there and ends with a hearty Y.]
Mirror Uli: Baby [holds the baby up to the mirror]. Milk, baby.
Uli: [lifting her shirt to breastfeed the doll] Yes, baby milk. Rock baby.
Mirror Uli: Fall down.
Uli: Shhh, baby. Rock. Milk.
Mirror Uli: [nodding] Milk. Hug.
Uli: Baby "Dear One" [hugs]
Mirror Uli: Always.

I love this peek into her head, so sweet. But it's reminded me of my responsibilities. Those words she says? She learned them from me and her father. The songs? We sing them with her. The breastfeeding? She and I still share that. The "Dear One" reference? I call her that (and she's started replying, "Always" when I do. It makes my heart warm). 

This life we're living together is molding her, guiding her understanding of how the world works. And I'm thrilled that so far she's focusing on the happy singing and hugs. But the other times... those when I'm frustrated and raise my voice, or the moments when I tell her "Not now"... those are in her head too, I know.

I know that Super Mom is an unatainable job title, but I sure do hope that in these future years I see more of her rehearsing cuddles and nursing her dollies than I observing dolls in the corner or being told to sit quietly. It's an awesome thing, this parenthood. Awesome, and sometimes overwhelming and exciting, both.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Whatcha Readin' Wednesday: Poetry

You've probably caught on to the fact that many many children's books are in rhyme. Dr. Seuss' books are a prime example. While I enjoy rhymes and find them fun to read aloud, I also enjoy reading actual poetry to my daughter.

Need a definition of the distinction? Sorry, don't have one on the top of my head. (Anyone want to help me figure it out? Leave a comment!) But I can share a few of the books I read to Uli which I consider poetry rather than just rhymed prose (emphasis on "I consider"):

by Nikki Giovanni
Illustrated by Chris Raschka

From the book's jacket the poem is described as one which "inspires us all to trust our hearts" and "a hymn to the power of art and of love." The illustrations show us a young girl dancing with her mother and community and receiving comfort when sad.

I enjoy reading it to Uli because it's short (sometimes you only have time for a quick read!), because it's positive (make the sky sing a Black song / sing a blue song / sing my song), and because the pictures are easy to describe (mainly people dancing or hugging on a plain brown background:  it's easy for my toddler to count the people on a page, or name colors, or ask about the action on the page).

One repeated line/warning in the poem is "don't prick your finger," which thus far I haven't needed to discuss with Uli. I'll have to put on my Literature Hat for that one. Otherwise, it's a very approachable book.


by Douglas Florian

LOVE this book! It's a collection of twenty-one bug-themed poems (who doesn't like BUGS?), each with a corresponding painting. The artwork is clever but the poems are even better. Uli loves to hear them. Her favorite? 

The Daddy Longlegs
(O Daddy / Daddy O / How'd you get / Those legs to grow / So very long / And lean in size? / From spiderobic / Exercise?).

I think my favorites are either

The Dragonfly
(For lunch I much / On flies and bees. / Mosquitoes with / My feet I seize)

or

The Praying Mantis
(Upon a twig / I sit and pray / For something big / To wend my way).


by e.e. cummings
illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray

This short, enjoyably illustrated book uses Cummings' poem to explore a Halloween night. The poem and pictures could be too scary/worrysome to some small children (look out for the old woman / with the wart on her nose / what she'll do to yer / nobody knows), but I (and Uli) appreciate the "revelation" on the last page that shows all the spooky characters introduced earlier were just children dressed-up in costumes, having Halloween fun. Uli enjoys the read (and specifically asks for "hist whist," which I find adorable).


And finally,

by Sally Fitz-Gibbon
illustrated by Brian Deines

In this children's book, a girl describes a day on her uncle's farm. The story is told in first-person, non-rhyming lines. (Back in the garden of peas, beans, and carrots / of strawberries staining my fingers and mouth / I twirl in the middle of cabbage and lettuce / my toes in the deep earth / my arms to the breeze). The impressionist-style pictures add to the free-whirling charm of the poetry. Uli regularly asks this to be read to her at bedtime.

So, just a small selection of books I consider poetry which my daughter enjoys as much as I. Do you have favorites? I'm all ears when it comes to book recommendations!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Little Baby-Wearer

Doesn't seem so long ago I was the one wearing the baby!

Uli and "Little Baby"


I wish I could take credit for inspiring her to baby-wear, but I cannot. At least, not in the back-carry she currently favors. She's picked-up this carry (or as she calls it, "Baby [on] back!") from various books and from watching the Babies movie.


Yup, she's back there, safe & sound


And what to do when baby is done being worn? 

What's that, baby? Want to get down?


Time to coerce coax the kitty into being wrapped!

Here, let me wrap this like so...


We've learned baby-wearing is best done with babies

Monday, November 15, 2010

Not a Picky Eater

My dear baby girl. She has quite the wide and varied palate.





For the actual people-foods she's been eating lately, click on over to my cooking blog. (More cooking than writing, lately).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

CSA Windfall

A lovely friend of mine was out of town this weekend and unable to pick-up her last scheduled CSA delivery. She graciously offered my family the veggies.

Who could turn down an offer like that? I meandered on down to to the farmer's market and picked-up her scheduled share of this week's harvest.


Brussels Sprouts

Kale & Bok Choy & other mystery [to me] greens

Broccoli & Cauliflower 

Turnips, Beets & Sweet Potatoes

Carrots

Catnip  Salad Mix


There was also some lovely butternut squash, which made two wonderful soups for our dinner.

If you haven't participated in a CSA before, perhaps I can convince you to check your local farms/availability and to sign-up next spring? You won't regret it! But note that many CSAs sell out all their shares by April or May, so don't forget to research/apply prior to the actual harvesting season. I tell you, the fresh produce from a CSA beats grocery store veggies every time.

A very big thank you to my friend for sharing the veggies with us. You're awesome, M!



Thursday, November 4, 2010

Vinegar & Honey: Outlook on Natural Parenting

When I'd started brainstorming about a post for November's  Natural Parenting Carnival  (I am sorry to say that in the end I missed the deadline to submit. ::sigh::)  the first thought that popped into my mind was that natural parenting means saying "No" a lot.

The Vinegar List

  • No to CIO.
  • No to hauling my child around in a baby bucket.
  • No to disposable diapers.
  • No to the typical CDC vaccination schedule and suspect suspensions.
  • No to refined sugars.
  • No to hormone-laden meat.
  • No to pesticide-sprayed produce.
  • No to the highly perfumed, super-duper, poisonous household cleaners.
  • No, I'm not [yet] weaning my baby/toddler.
  • No, we don't want those plastic/branded/TV-themed toys in our house.
  • No, I don't feel my toddler needs to watch any "children's" television programs.


It gets discouraging, saying "No" all the time. Not to mention people start to think of you as The Cranky One who is No Fun.

But then I realized that my parenting ideals weren't chosen by me because I love everything barren and harsh and bitter. Instead, my goals align with many of the NP philosophies because they create opportunities for closeness with my daughter. They provide me an opportunity to learn more about our community. They are in line with my hopes for the environment and the future of our world.

I don't need to view my parenting ideals in a negative light. Instead, check out the same list from a positive viewpoint:

The Honey List

  • Yes to responding to my child when she calls out for me.
  • Yes to carrying my baby in a sling, heart to heart, able to kiss her little head.
  • Yes to reusable (and so cute!) cloth [or EC].
  • Yes to educating ourselves and nurturing our bodies and their natural, amazing defenses.
  • Yes to enjoying the natural sweetness of whole grains, dabs of honey, nectars, and ripe fruits.
  • Yes to local, organic, sustainable farming.
  • Yes to our backyard garden and compost.
  • Yes to homemade, inexpensive, non-toxic cleaning products.
  • Yes to breastfeeding for as long as my daughter and I desire.
  • Yes to imaginative, well-made toys from companies who pay their workers a living wage.
  • Yes to reading aloud to my family every day.
There is a time and a place for Vinegar arguments, certainly. Vinegar is a good, strong, cleaner. Shines your windows, cleans your fridge and doesn't poison you. But I'm hoping my daily attitude more often reflects the Honey list's joyful spin and its eagerness to enjoy the natural world with home and family. 

I've been inspired at one point or another by others who have shared their excitement about various pieces of Natural Parenting, and I'd like to think my own household may someday inspire others as well. So I'm rearranging my thoughts to focus on the positives that inspire me versus spouting-off about all the things I'm trying to avoid. Anyone want to join me? 



Happy Outlook, Summer 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Autumn Poems & Pics from the Porch

Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, 
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth 
seeking the successive autumns.
                                                                                                 ~ George Eliot  



"Listen!  the wind is rising,
and the air is wild with leaves...
"
~  Humbert Wolfe 



October's the month
When the smallest breeze
Gives us a shower
Of autumn leaves.
Bonfires and pumpkins,
Leaves sailing down -
October is red
And golden and brown.



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Whatcha Readin' Weds: The Mountains of Tibet

Is my local library glutted with books intent upon making me cry? Perhaps I gravitate toward those types. It's possible I've just become an easy crier. Well, count The Mountains of Tibet by Mordicai Gerstain among my ever lengthening list of children's books that have recently drawn a tear or two. Uli enjoyed looking at the pictures and hearing the story read to her (even when my throat got scratchy and my voice grew quiet).





Mordicai Gerstin's book is simple. And also: not. (It's hard to describe the not without giving everything away, so if you wish to be surprised, just stick to the next paragraph and then if you're interested in the read, add it to your library request list.)

A small boy lives in Tibet. He loves to fly kites. He dreams about other lands, about exploring the world, about meeting new people and visiting new places. Then he grows up. He stays in his home village and raises a family. He works hard. He grows old. He dies.

Simple enough, right? Lovely illustrations. Told in few sentences in a straightforward manner. Death is not portrayed as sad nor disturbing, just as part of the life cycle.

But that part I note above is just the beginning of the book. The rest of the story is about after death.

If you're reading on, consider this your spoiler alert.



While the beginning of the book shows the man's life, the remainder of the book is about what takes place after his death. From his point of view.

After his death he is provided a glimpse of the entire massive universe. He is invited (by an unidentified voice/being) to become part of the universe, to lose himself in the Everything that's out there. Or he can choose to rejoin a life cycle and start anew, in any galaxy, on any planet, as any creature, anywhere he wishes.

He chooses to live another life.

He doesn't exactly recall his life as a human in Tibet, but nonetheless he feels drawn to the Milky Way galaxy, and to the sun and to Earth.  And when presented with all the different creatures in the world he decides to become human once more. When offered the ability to be reborn as any human, he chooses to be Tibetan once again. And he chooses to be born into the very village in which he'd previously lived.

The cycle begins again.

The Mountains of Tibet's illustrations are gorgeous, and they alone make the trip to the library worth your while (those after he dies, when he's viewing the solar system and then all the different creatures of the world, are especially beautiful). As for the text, I like that the story is happy even though it includes death. The main story only happens because of death, in fact. Death is necessary and kept close, not shown as something to fear. I like that the man's draw to his former home in Tibet is portrayed not in a sad, you're-stuck-with-what-you-know sort of way but in a it's-a-wonderful-life and who-says-you-can't-go-home sort of way. While the man doesn't specifically remember his former life, he clearly sees value in the mountain lands and wants to experience life there [again]. And so he does.

Simple. But not.

Uli enjoyed having it read it to her ("Read Tibet" was one of her earliest sentences!). I hope to add it to our home library very soon. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Be Like Dwight

You probably aren't aware, but this past spring we decided to become beet farmers. (Also: chard gardeners, but I don't have pictures of the chard, so I'll just talk about beets here.)

Following in the footsteps of all our favorite Office character, we planted a million tiny beet seeds and then waited and waited and mulched and watered and waited for our lovely baby beets to grow up. And then they did! They grew! And we promptly plucked them and sliced them and roasted them and ate them.

Mmmm. Baby beets & greens.

And then the novelty wore off and The Office was on summer break and so we left the rest of the beets to the wild of the garden for months. However, this past weekend fast-approaching cold weather forced us to take action and harvest them.




We had vast variations in size at our harvest. That one on the left up there, maybe a golf ball size. The middle one is more of what you'd see in a supermarket. The one on the right? HUGE. Like, a small bunny rabbit size. Or maybe a loaf of bread size. I suspect a more uniform crop would be a sign we knew what we were doing, but oh well. It was kind of fun to first pull a monster-sized beet, then a few that were basically just leaves, then a few regular beets and then another large one. (Okay, fun might be pushing it, but at least it wasn't boring.)

Once the beets are unearthed the real fun begins. You get to cut the tops from the roots and rinse off the greens (unless you like grit and/or live earwigs and/or dead spiders in your food. And you might, that's your prerogative) and saute them with onions and garlic in olive oil for a fabulous and simple side dish. 


De-spidered and ready for cooking! 

You can also brush-up on your Russian (or Romanian or Polish or Prussian or Armenian or Chinese) food history while you stir a triple batch of Whole Beet Borscht.


Tastes way better than it looks here

Or you can talk about colors with your toddler while eating Russian Salad (which, I understand, isn't actually something you will necessarily find in Russia).


Carrots, potatoes, beets, peas...

Food gardening. I do enjoy it. Providing your family's meals from food gathered in your own backyard has its rewards. But perhaps next year we might grow something other than just chard and beets. (Sorry, Dwight.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pumpkin Seed Time

As many of you may have done recently, this weekend I roasted pumpkin seeds.



Uli loved them. She loved digging the seeds out of the middle of the pumpkin. She loved squishing the gooey seeds and the stringing pumpkin innards back and forth from hand to hand. She loved spreading them on the cookie sheet. She loved eating them once they were cool.

And she loved counting them. (My baby can count! Kind of!)

Daddy:  "Do you want more pumpkin seeds?"
Uli:  "Two!"
Daddy:  "You want two more seeds?"
Uli:  "Two and six!"
Daddy: "Two plus six?"
Uli:  "One, two, three!"

I believe seeds are brain food, no?

Monday, August 30, 2010

PSA: Save Your Photos & Then Save Them Again Elsewhere!

It's the weirdest thing, to go from 2,000+ photos in iPhoto to 0.

Zero photos of my sweet baby's face. Zero photos of her birth. Her first smiles. Her sticking-up hair. Zero.

All because of a stupid faulty hard drive and a misplaced faith in the foreverness of digital bits. Computer failure could never happen to me. That happens to those other foolish people who don't back-up their computers. Carrie Bradshaw. But ME who doesn't back up my computer? Surely I'd be forever immune from all such pedestrian troubles.

Mmmhmmm.

So while I'm begging graciously accepting photos from others who might have snapped a shot or two of the monkey girl (and am I ever glad the proud momma posts from my blogs survived the wipe) here's a quick reminder to all of you to GO BACK UP YOUR PHOTOS. Yes, right now. Or, okay, tomorrow. But don't get all slacker and wait a week or anything. I managed to put off my back-up by more than 104 weeks, one week at a time (I'm quite the accomplished slacker, really) and look where that got me.


A moment in time, Summer 2009. 
Nearly lost forever, now restored.
 (Thanks, Em, for saving this pic!)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nursing Rules for Toddlers

It may be time to Lay Down the Law.  A nursing law, that is. And not this one that was signed into law this past year (go, Wisconsin!), but no, an actual Nursing Rules For the Propson Household law of sorts.

Because, while I don't want to wean her before she's ready, I do want to:

-sleep through the night. An actual 7+ hours. In. A. Row.
-avoid being bitten awake in the morning by a ravenous toddler
-eat my breakfast while it's still warm
-sit at lunch with a friend without having to lift up my shirt more than twice every ten minutes

And right now we're struggling on all these points.

Our nursings before bed and first thing in the morning are usually gentle, quiet, sweet times together. And her speed snacks during the days when I'm home with her seem pretty practical still.

But I do wish that when she wants to nurse she would nurse and when she wants to play she'd play and the two wouldn't always be so intermingled. As it is, she often tries to both nurse and play at the exact same time and ends up frustrated (-ing us both) by not really being able to satisfactorily do either well. Either her latch loosens or she drops her truck and then she stops both nursing and playing and seems saddened by the world's difficulties.

She sometimes compromises on the nursing/playing by squeezing a breast so that milk squirts out onto my shirt, which she thinks is a hilarious and thrilling and never-dull game. I am less enthralled.

I'm also thinking that a "code word" for nursing might come in handy, for clarity's sake. So far she's happy to say or sign "milk" when she wants to nurse, but I think she's confused about anatomy versus food. No part of my body is called "milk," but I think she understands it as all the same. At least, she certainly points to other women and says "milk" rather often now, and while they're quick to say they don't have any milk, I can see the glint in her blue eyes as though she's well aware of they're full of lies. And maybe they are from her point of view if all she's doing is simply pointing out anatomy.

Anyway, I don't actually have any particular life-changing rules in mind. Nor an idea for a code word. And maybe I don't even need to make serious changes. Or any changes. Overall, Uli's nursing less and less and I can see our days as Mamma and Nursling are numbered. Perhaps I should just enjoy this fleeting time as-is.

But I am getting irritated by my closet-full of milk stained shirts.

Maybe I'm just grumpy because it's been 2 years since I last slept longer than 5 hours in a row.


[Insert picture of my happy girl enjoying her milk. 
If only they hadn't all been lost in the computer crash.]

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

At least SOMEONE has something to say...

Uli's become quite the wordsmith, finally stringing two and more words together as of last week. Here are three of my daughter's most charming first sentences:

"Mama poop!"
"Puh" (or "Ya-ya") poop!" ["Puh" is what she calls our dog Ruby, "Ya-ya" is Lula]
"Mama (or Dada) potty. Poop. All-done!"


Needless to say, her father and I are very proud.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Choices, Choices...Vanity vs. Radioactive Breasts

I've been MIA, I know. It's been difficult for me to blog lately. Partially because of an overwhelmingly freakish writer's block that is now showing signs of lifting (it's not gone, though. It's taken me more than two weeks to construct this single post. Sentence by painful sentence), but also because honestly I prefer to write about real-life, day-to-day things and there are things that have been happening of which I cannot yet blog. Someday soon, perhaps, but not now. And that act of holding back, knowing I cannot share specific items of my life, just feeds the block.

But something happened this week three weeks ago of which I CAN write.

It's actually kind of a bummer.

I'll be having surgery in September.

I've been struggling with Graves Disease and hyperthyroidism for just over a year now. Symptoms showed up in force after my daughter was born, though I think I saw a ghost of them years before. Shaking. Sweating. Heart palpitations. And then with my newborn also came my low milk supply.

The endocrinologist put me on a medication called PTU. And I've felt better.

But...

PTU has been known to cause liver damage, so it's not fabulous to be on long-term. And the alternative medication available doesn't work for my situation right now. So I can't stay on my current meds and I can't take the other one offered. And going off meds all together doesn't seem like a good idea, what with the heart palpitations, jitters, heat sensitivity, etc...  Adjusting my diet hasn't made much/any difference, it seems (I did try!). Sadness. And that leaves surgery.

There are two kinds of surgery being offered to me: the physical removal of the thyroid (thyroidectomy) and the killing of the thyroid (using radioactive iodine) whilst leaving it in my body.

The radioactive iodine was most recently the only treatment that my endocrinologist mentioned; however,  you cannot be breastfeeding if you get the radioactive treatment. That was enough for me to refuse the treatment when it was first mentioned and it remains a primary reason I've decided it's not for me at all. True, I'm not nursing very much any more, but our bed- and morning time routines still include it as a cherished moment, and I'm not yet willing to forcefully end it if my daughter still wants her milks.

Plus, even if I were to reconsider total weaning at this point, the doctors said that the longer it'd been since I'd been actively lactating the better/safer it would be for me in the long run. Thing is, the radioactivity apparently concentrates in breastmilk, which means that if I weren't completely dried-up I'd have radioactive bits of milk hanging out in my breasts for a while after the treatment. And that is not so great when it comes to avoiding things like, oh, breast cancer.

Also, patients having the iodine treatment shouldn't be around children for several days to a week (so Uli wouldn't be able to be in the house with me. Because how do you tell a toddler to stay on the far edges of any room Momma is in? Stay away from Mamma! No hugs!) and even around adults you need to be careful, flushing twice after using the toilet, and scrubbing down the shower/tub after you bathe. Kind of intense.

So I'm not doing the radioactive iodine.

Instead, I'll be having the thyroidectomy. And it's okay. The surgeon said that it's actually the best option for people with Graves because getting rid of the thyroid altogether will mean the antibodies currently circulating in my system an attacking my thyroid will hopefully calm down once the thyroid is gone (leaving less risk to my eyes and to any future fetuses' thyroids).  

But I'm still not totally thrilled.

I got lasik so that if civilization came to an end I would still be able to see even without contacts. That was important to me, to have healthy eyes that could help me survive in a time of crisis. And now I'm struggling to accept the idea that without my thyroid I'll be stuck relying on hormone pills for the rest of my life. Or I'll die. Die! I'll be a lifelong Walgreen's customer or I'll die. I hate that thought.

Also, and embarrassingly, mostly I'm worried about the thyroidectomy scar. Which, rather than hiding quietly below my bikini line as the cesarean scar so thoughtfully rests, will be right up there POW! on my neck. For all to see and gawk at and make Nearly Headless Nick jokes about.

Yes, I am hardly better than my thirteen year old self. I could be worrying about surgical mishaps, flooding and famine, car accidents, the night Uli will have to spend away from me while I'm in recovery. But no, I am concerned about a red line on my neck.

But that's how it is. I predict I'll be wearing a lot of scarves this next year. I'll pretend it's because I'm all into fancy retro looks, but you'll know the truth.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Four Freedoms

God keep this country free:
          Free from tyrants and their whips
          To stamp out truth and seal the lips;
     Free for every race and creed,
          Free from fear,
          Free from need;
God keep this country free.

~by Leah Gale from Prayers for Children (a Little Golden Book, 1942)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Blocked

writer's block
block
block
block
block
block
block
brain
block
block
block
block
block
block
block
not even a Wordless Wednesday

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Recent Bloggy Silence Brought to you by...



~Summery weather [go out and get some summer yourself today!]

~A visit with one sister [it was so good to see you, Liz!]

~A goodbye from another sister [we miss you so much already, Em! good luck on your move!]

~Stupification over our family's new bedtime routine [more on this to come]

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Weekend Recap



Random Entertainment


True Love


Sunshine

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What's All This, Then? Motherland Art Review: Part 1

Head's up: I will hereby attempt to review an art show I attended last Sunday. I intend to break it up over a few posts over the next week or two. This will be the first time I have ever attempted to review a piece of art, much less an entire show, and I feel that I must disclose the fact that I have absolutely no qualifications which allow me to review shows of any sort (not even picture or dog). And actually, I should probably be calling it an exhibit or project or something, so I'm already off to a rocky start. Nevertheless, I shall continue, starting with this first selection and following-up with more as I finish writing them. And then I will possibly go back and update everything if I read other's review and realized I was way off base. So. Read on if you dare! And be kind. Remember, I'm a novice.

First off, an overview. Greetings from Motherland is, per its website, "an evolving participatory arts project about the culture shock of becoming a mother." Artistic Director Mindy Stricke met regulary with a small group of Madison mothers and over several months they sculpted, photographed, collaged, sewed, wrote, and proceeded to create works meant to share their experiences as women who have traveled the often trepidatious road from pre-child to POW! You're a mother! The show's bulletin listed eight primary artistic contributors and several other peripheral contributors to Sunday's initial showing (with additional contributions expected if/as the show continues).

I arrived at the Motherland show (exibit?) ten minutes before it was scheduled to open (carpooling gets you places, not always exactly when you need to arrive). I looked the antithesis of hip or artsy: I was wearing my Birkenstock sandals (I'd come directly from lounging at the lakefront), a jean skirt, and a bright yellow seagull t-shirt which, while fine for a beach retreat, had no place mingling with artists. (A bird had pooped on my chest earlier that afternoon--True Story--and the bright, ironically bird-embellished tee was the only back-up piece of clothing in my possession that day other than the 12 month onsie still cluttering up the bottom of my 19 month daughter's diaper bag).

I mention my outfit in order to set the mood. My mood, that is, as I stepped into the gallery space. Basically: I felt incredibly foolish. There I was, entering a room in which I could only imagine were women much more successful than I. Not only were they more creative and productive than I felt, I wouldn't even be able to pretend I was cultured or had class lest they point at my shirt and laugh in my face. I was outside my comfort zone.

As I was saying (I know, I know: get to it already, Thomasin! Jeez, remember what I said about being nice?), I stepped through the exhibit door unfashionably early and, well, just plain unfashionable. Much to my relief I received not heckles but immediate welcomes from the artists. They were hurrying about adding finishing touches to the set-up, and though I still felt awkward there was nothing more to do than to jump right in take them up on their invitation and explore the installations.

Notes:

I've decided to describe the works in the order I would have viewed them had I moved about the room counter-clockwise. I didn't exactly move that way myself, but I think most visitors probably did (it seemed to be the natural flow).

I didn't see titles on any of the pieces, so I'm calling each by a simple descriptive name I've made up (I hope no one is offended with the liberties I've taken).


Mini-Viewers

After walking by tables with refreshments and child crafts thoughtfully provided for guests & their children, I observed numerous (12? 20? I didn't count them) multi-colored rectangular plastic boxes hanging from wires, mobile-style . I initially passed them by, believing they were simply flair for the space, attractive to look at but nothing begging closer attention.

I was, of course, wrong; before long I'd spoken to one of the artists and was directed back to the colorful hanging arrangement. It turns out each brightly colored box was an individual slide viewer. You were meant to grab one of the dangling boxes (moving one caused others nearby to bob all about, but for the most part they were independent of each other), point it toward the light source, and then peek through the viewer to view a single slide/photo.

Click here for a link to a photo of the piece.

There two slides I recall most clearly:

The first depicts two figurines (I believe male and female) in the foreground, their gazes set on the huge baby (doll) in the background.

The second also showed two figurines (I don't recall the genders, it may have been unclear) surrounded (engulfed) by Cheerio-type cereal o's.

Both slides brough to mind a familiar feeling. First the "Oh my goodness. We have a BABY!" that shocks you the first time your child cries and you look around to see who will pick that baby up and suddenly you realize It's my baby. I am supposed to pick her up! It's all me! Also the feeling of being overwhelmed by the minutiea of baby-rearing. The hundreds of items we're told we need (from the o's to the strollers, pumps, clothes, teethers, walkers, highchairs and all the other bits that most everyone accumulates when they are preparing for a baby which they may or may not actually need).

For me, the slides felt familiar. I've known something akin to panic as I realized we weren't just planning for a baby any longer: our baby was here. And looking around at the spread of food and toy stuffs we've accumulated into our home since our daughters arrival, I have some emphathy for the little plastic people and their halos of Cheerios.

Other impressions from the slides:

~just because something's small doesn't mean it can't pack a whallop

~so I hadn't recognized the viewers as part of the show. It's possible that was part of the point. I think about my pre-baby life and stuff and how it's still with me. I don't think about it being there, but it is. It still affects how I move about my life.

~child-friendly and reminiscent of childhood:  I could appreciate the medium (once I spotted it!)

~it's all in the details. Life isn't just about the big and showy, it's about the pieces that may be all too often overlooked as well. They still help create our world, our space.

The viewers were an interesting way to begin the show (I say that even though I rushed right on past them). It was an interesting idea, asking the art-viewers to begin participating in the experience by changing them from passive observers to action-takers immediately. It certainly set the tone for the rest of the installations (in which the artists sought not only to share but to encourage the sharing of experiences).  Also:  giving a person a "job" (even if it's such a simple job as to pull a viewer to your eye and peek through it) does much to dispel the awkward but I'm wearing a bird shirt feeling of the uninitiated art-goer.

So. How'd I do? Go ahead, you can tell me. It'll help me work on the rest of the reviews. :-)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Misguided Parenting Magazines: Part 1

I'm a devoted subscriber to Mothering magazine. The Madison Birth Center provided me with free copies throughout my pregnancy, and I fell in love with the information about homebirth, babywearing, cloth diapering, inspiring breastfeeding stories, and other thoughtful articles about vaccinations, the environment, and gentle discipline.

Waiting in the lobby of my MD's office last month, I picked-up a copy of Pregnancy magazine (April 2010 issue. $5.99 newsstand), wondering what the doctor's office handed out to their patients and how it compared to Mothering.  The cover of this issue had a photo of Joey Lawrence and his wife. Even so, I thought maybe it'd be an okay magazine.

But no.

The front cover also boasted tips for handling "breastfeeding bullies," written by Nanny Stella. Mothering is so breastfeeding friendly that it hadn't occurred to me that other parenting magazines may not be as positive (even if you're writing for a pool of subscribers who use formula or bottles, why would you say something against breastfeeding when you're a parenting magazine? Or why would you, as a doctor's office, put such a magazine in your lobby?). I turned to the article and was very disappointed by its take on breastfeeding.

 Quotes:

A mom's job is to meet the needs of her baby, not the wants of breastfeeding fanatics... I write this not to get into the breastfeeding vs. formula debate. We all know breast is best... And I should say for the record that I am an advocate for breastfeeding...

Okay. Meet your baby's needs. That's good. For newborns that would mean feeding on demand, skin to skin contact, and warmth.

Breast is best. It may be true (and the recent catch phrase) but I'm not such a fan of that wording (see HERE for a post explaining the importance of word choice and re-normalizing breastfeeding in our culture). Saying that breastfeeding is normal may be the more suitable statement.

An advocate for breastfeeding. Bravo! Except that she's not. I'm sorry, but you don't say you're an advocate for something like breastfeeding and then put the whammy on it unless you're a poser. You want to know who is a real breastfeeding advocate? PhD in Parenting, that's who. I love that blogger. She's an advocate, Nanny Stella is not.

These breastfeeding fanatics of whom she speaks... Who are they, exactly?

...I am not a fan of certain breastfeeding bullies, otherwise known as 'lactivists.' You know, the ones who want your baby hanging off your boob 24/7 until she's ready for elementary school.
Ah. Yes. The lactivists. The women who breastfeed their babies (perhaps in public!) without apologizing for doing so. The ones who attend Le Leche League meetings. Who recommend lactation consultants to other mother's struggling with breastfeeding difficulties. Who rally around and volunteer for nurse-ins in the name of other women who have been discriminated against or made to feel humiliated for breastfeeding. Who believe that feeding your child in a normal way is, well, normal. Who don't judge a woman or her child for enjoying the nursing relationship past 6 months. Or, as Nanny Stella calls them:  bullies.

An evil, smelly bully. Yup, that's me! I consider myself a lactivist and yet I neither have a child constantly hanging off my boob (what a demeaning description she chose to describe such a comforting, gentle relationship) neither does it look like I'll nurse my daughter until she enters school (certainly, there are mother/child pairs who do choose to continue that long. But I've never NEVER once heard those mothers ever tell any other mother that they must also do so).

To peg lactivists as women who interfere in another mother's life is an attempt to drive a wedge between mothering communities that I don't believe is at all warrented. The pro-breastfeeding women (and men) I've known wish to be respected for their informed choices and want other mothers to be respected in the same way, whether they're nursing, pumping and bottle feeding, or formula feeding. They're about knowledge and empowerment, not denouncement and ridicule. Nanny Stella is villainizing a group that should be her partners (if she, Nanny Stella, were in fact truly an advocate of breastfeeding. but she's not) and I'm quite sad that she's chosen to write (and that the magazine chose to publish) this article aimed at expecting mothers that is so intent on building up barriers.
Anyway, there's more from that article and the magazine. Maybe I'll write about it (hence the Part 1 above), maybe I won't. I just wanted to share my disappointment with the magazine. I don't believe it has a place in a doctor's lobby. And I'll be writing both my doctor's office and Pregnancy a letter to tell them how I feel.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Goodbye Thumbkin

I've been struggling with this post. I don't know exactly what I want to say, how I want to describe this situation, or even if trying to write this now is good for me. But here it is nevertheless. Brain purge. Gotta get it out, even if it's not done percolating.


My daughter was born perfect. 7 lbs, 7 oz. Wailing cry. Lots of blonde hair. Kicking legs. Ten little toes. Eleven little fingers.

Maybe more like 10 and a half fingers. My daughter was born with a partial extra digit on her right hand. A half-sized thumb that developed alongside her regular full-sized thumb. Thumb and Thumbkin. It had its very own little nail that I trimmed along with her other ten fingernails. It was precious, if unexpected. It was a part of her, her body. It was her normal.



And two months ago we had her extra thumb surgically removed.

Removed.  What a forceful word. And it sounds so void of emotion. Like it was an irritation to be swept away. Like her thumbkin was something that had snuck in and so we sent the bouncers over to turn it out. Like we didn't really think about it. Just something we needed to be rid of. But her thumbkin wasn't refuse, wasn't trespassing, it was part of my sweet beautiful baby girl. It was part of the only hand she knew. The hand she grew while inside of me. The hand I've kissed hundreds of times. I love that little hand. It was perfect. And now it's different. Now her hand looks just like most people's hands.

We were fearful her thumbkin would make her a target for bullying. That having a different number of fingers would affect how she felt about herself in a negative way. Limit her positive contacts. Keep her from her full potential.

We were scared by the what ifs.
And now we feel better (mostly).

And yet I still struggle with our decision. At 17 months her little friends didn't notice her hand, didn't care. But in a few more years they would noticed. Some of them would have cared. Some of them wouldn't have. How would she have felt about her extra thumb? We didn't wait to find out. And I'm not sure that was the right decision.

Perhaps she wouldn't have minded her extra thumb. There was actually a surgeon at the hospital who was polydactyl himself and who'd obviously accepted his extra digit. Should we have let her live that possibility? Was it wrong of us to take that from her?

We were trying to be compassionate. We were trying to make sure she had a healthy body to serve her quick mind, unhampered by uneccesary work-arounds for fine motor skills (the extra thumb pad was a hinderance to her, did trip her up when it came to unscrewing caps and picking up small objects).



But the fact that we weren't just concerned about performance but that we were so concerned about her having a feeling of oddity due to physical difference bothers at me. Aren't we humans all different? What does it say about me that I can say I strive to accept everyone but then I go and physically change my own daughter?  I wouldn't have circumsized her if she'd been born a boy. I take a child's bodily integrity seriously. Nevertheless I signed her up for surgery at 17 months because her thumbkin made it more difficult to pick things up [okay, so that's maybe acceptable] and because I think she'd be teased someday [and it's that "and" where my guilt comes flooding in].

I hope we made the right choice. I look at my baby girl now, count the fingers of her right hand, and find myself wincing when I come to "...four, five." It just seems to me that something's missing rather than something extra being taken away. It wasn't really extra, it was her.

I hope she is satisfied with the decision we've made for her. I hope she knows it wasn't made lightly. 




Eating paint and making some handprints the night before surgery



Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Try, Try Again



This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have waxed poetic about how their parenting has inspired others, or how others have inspired them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.




I would like to be called an inspiration to people, not a role model, because I make mistakes like everybody else ...I'm just like everybody else.
                                                                                                                   ~Brittany Spears



Just like Brittany Spears,  (what a weird trip this is, writing the beginning of this sentence!) I am uncomfortable thinking of myself as a role model. I don't even think of myself as like everybody else, I feel like many of you have stuff figured out while I've got a lot yet to learn. In fact, I'm really only in this blogging business to read what other people have to say and then experiment upon my own life by copying their ideas. I love the blogging community for this:  it's not considered rude to try out something that someone else posts about. You bloggers reading this are my role models. I'm watching you.

Plus, I just can't always say with gusto my own parenting is something that anyone else should model. Because, frankly, I don't really know what I'm doing. I'm making it all up as I go!

Is that (the feeling of flying by one's parental pant's seat) something that fades after your child grows beyond her second year? I suppose I'd feel more confident with an infant at this point (been there, done that, everyone lived, success!) but I'm still shaky about this toddler business. Shoot, I still feel relatively new to this wife business, and that's been more than two years (two and a half, to be exact).

Anyway, I can't think of a single person who would consider me their parenting role model. I do however, aspire to be an inspiration. An inspiration of the Little Engine That Could variety.


From the moment I knew I was pregnant (okay, even before) I knew I wanted to focus on gentle, earthy, family-centered rearing. I read books upon books upon books. Scoured the internet for reviews of cloth diapers. Drafted and re-drafted the plans for a Montessori-based child's room. Planned for the homebirth. Bought a sling and a wrap.  

And then it was Go-Day and I got to meet my baby face to face. And I had to start improvising.

Homebirth? Nope, had a c-section due to breech presentation. Cloth? First we used-up the disposals that we'd been given, but we did eventually get to the cloth. Nursing? Yes, but only after weeks and weeks of pumping and tube- and bottle-feeding. The Montessori room? Still not finished, though we have had great success with the easiest (and *cough* laziest) portion of the room: the full-sized mattress on the floor (i.e. no crib). Baby-wearing? Was great with front carries, haven't been practicing the back-carries and worry that it's now been too long since I've worn her to make it work any longer.

I don't know anyone who has seen what I have done or continue to do and says, Genius woman! I was doing something totally opposite but through your example I can now see the light!

But an inspiration? Of some mild sort? I hope so. I hope that a co-worker might someday decide to pump in the office after her maternity leave, encouraged by the whirring sound she heard from my Medela after I'd returned from mine. That a friend or two feels more comfortable nursing their teething, walking babes because they've seen me nursing my toddler.  That my sister might consider using cloth diapers for her future children because she's been able to use them successfully on my daughter at our house. That a Facebook friend might consider an independent natural labor/birth class versus the stock class offered at the hospital.

I have hope that someone, somewhere, sees how I'm raising (or attempting/aspiring to raise) my daughter and thinks to him- or herself,  If she can do it, I can too! Because I'm trying. And sometimes failing and then trying again. And Again. It seems the right thing to do.



Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by the end of the day May 11 with all the carnival links.)






Monday, May 10, 2010

Getting Knitty With It

My first pair of socks.

Well, so far it's just one sock. A tube, really.





I'm excited. I'm ready to turn the heel. The heel! 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Always a Draft, Never a Post

I realized I haven't been posting much lately. It's not that I haven't been writing, though! But nothing is finished...

Here's a sampling of the titles of some posts I've been inspired to start, currently have in my Drafts, and hope to have published here soon:

Lifestyle Change
Singing Songs of Sixpence [and others]
Try, Try Again
Needlepoint
Goodbye, Thumbkin!
I don't know why she swallowed the fly
Got Broccoli?
Overdue Onion :: Do Over Onion
Farewell My Kind-of Friend
Nursing Rules for Toddlers
Peanut Allergy

Watch for [hopefully] some more regular posting in the months to come. Ideally, I'd like to post at least 3x a week. But then, I'd also like to shower at least 3x a week. Sometimes we just don't get what we wish for.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wordless Wednesday


May Queen with Mussed Hair

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Thank You" seemed the wrong thing to say

I had a 'well woman' check-up this week in which I was seen by both a nursing student (performing the exam first) and then the supervising physician (re-performing all points of the exam). Having twice the provider care took--not surprisingly--twice as long but it was nice to have so much time to discuss my health versus the 20 minute Hello-You're-Not-Dying-Goodbye I've had with some doctors in the past.

And without a nursing student present I would likely never have participated in the following exchange:

Nursing Student:  (excitedly) "I found your cervix! This is the fastest I've ever found one! It's right where it should be!"

Supervising Physician:   (approvingly) "It's a good one. Exactly like the pictures in the textbooks."

Me:   (flattered) "Um... Glad to hear it!"

That's me:  ol' reliable cervix, right where it should be. Sometimes being textbook is a good thing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

to bed to bed to rest your head

No doubt I will, sooner or later, write a post about my frustrations with Uli's bedtime routine. However, before I write that post--possibly in an attempt to distracting myself from writing it tonight--I will list the things I enjoy about bedtime with Uli. Trying to focus on the positive, you know.

Really, there are many very special and happy things about bedtime:

I love the joy she finds in running around unclothed after her bath. She seriously loves being naked and, well, it's adorable.

I love that she enjoys picking out pajamas and is willing to let me dress her. If she's quicker than I (and, let's face it, she often is) she'll snag extra pieces of clothing from her drawers and cuddle them;  I find the mussing of the folded clothes somewhat annoying, but seeing her wrap a pair of pants around herself and nuzzle them against her cheek is amusing.

I love that she wants me to read to her. 3, 4, 5 books a night. Poetry books. Picture books. I love that she sits in my lap and leans back against me, twirling her hair while I read. It's peaceful.

I love that when we're finished reading I can say, "Lie down, honey. I'll turn off the light and come nurse you," and she'll lay down her little head and wait for me to crawl into bed with her.

I love her calm tone when she says, "Mama, Mama" and pats my face when she takes a break from nursing. It's a gentle I love you that is perfect in its simplicity.

I love her warm little body snuggled next to mine.

I love the way her legs go from flying every which way to a slow up and down and finally rest quietly as she slips into slumber.

I love her deep sigh she falls asleep at last and rolls away from me onto her other side.


Whatever other frustrations I have about our nighttime routine, these precious moments are true gifts. I cannot imagine my nights without my daughter and her joyful running, happy reading, gentle words, and deep sleepy sighs.

Uli, December 2008


'Night, 'night, baby doll.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Uli and the Pussy Cats


Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting advice!
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we're writing letters to ask our readers for help with a current parenting issue. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
***


I could use some advice.

Until recently the only attention my daughter paid our cats was to wag a finger in their direction and say "No, no!" very sternly when they attempted to snack on her food. Maybe she took the occasional cat nap. That was about it.

Ah, the good old days. A cuddle with James.


Over the last several months, however, she's become more and more aggressive toward the poor kitties. She jumps on, squeezes, kicks, and squashes them. She rolls on them. She pounds them on their little heads. She tugs their ears. She bugs them. A lot. All the time. Constantly.

It's not her only contact with them; she knows the word "gentle" and when prompted she'll momentarily let the cat out of the headlock in which she's placed it to softly stroke its back and excitedly coo, "KEY-ee!"  But we're tiring of seeing her step on and kick the "key-ees" when they've been sitting on the floor or lying on a chair minding their own hairballs. Last week we caught her jabbing a sleeping cat with her fork!

  
Lucy may have squished her a little bit, but it was no jab with a fork!


Our cats are not defenseless; they all have their claws and they [rightly] take swipes at her when they've had enough. I almost wish they'd defend themselves more often so I didn't feel I have to constantly rescue them, but even with their patient natures Uli's been scratched and bitten several times. She cries buckets of tears when they defend themselves; we pick her up, hug her, and tell her she mustn't hurt the kitties. We tell her she must be gentle with them and pet them softly. But it's as though acting calmly around them is a foreign concept to her. She goes directly from wailing about a scratch to attempting to ride a cat like a horse.

If we rouse the cats and shoo them away from her she follows them. If we shoo her away from the cats she smiles a sassy smile and runs right back to them. She'll continue to smirk at us and approach the cats regardless of how many times we move her away from them, even if we raise our voices to show how upset and frustrated we are by her behaviour. (I feel like an utter failure each time we raise our voices. I don't want to be the parents that yell at their toddler. And I don't even know why we keep doing it since it's obviously not working!).

I feel like if we don't get a grip on this cat business we're just asking for other issues later, not to mention more self loathing over the yelling situation. Or am I taking this all too seriously and just need to keep doing what we're doing until she gets a bit older and (somehow, miraculously?) acts more responsibly toward them?

An increasingly rare tender moment with Mischa

Dear readers, if you can please shed (hah!) some light on our Toddler Versus Cats situation, I'd greatly appreciate it.




***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by the end of the day April 13 with all the carnival links.)



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