Thursday, April 30, 2009

Co-Sleeping Resources

With Zosia, the extent of our co-sleeping was pulling her in bed in the early morning to squeeze out an extra couple hours of sleep. However, Lily has been more of a co-sleeper, which has meant that I have been going back and doing some research on how to co-sleep safely with a baby. Here are some resources that have been helpful:
As with Zosia, we're probably going to do a mix of independent sleeping and co-sleeping. These days, Lily starts out the night in her bassinet, which generally gets her through a good bit of the night. At her first feeding, I pull her into bed with me, where she stays until the morning. We still have to either get a bedrail or push the bed up against the wall so Lily can sleep between me and a hard surface (while some older babies co-sleep between both parents, most people seem to recommend against it, as dads seem to lack the instinctual awareness of the baby's whereabouts that moms posses).

I'm excited about the possibility of a more serious co-sleeper-- I slept with my mom and sister until I was 9 or 10, and some of my fondest memories are of our bed sharing. It would be wonderful if we could get Lily and Zosia to co-sleep once they get a bit older, and for now I'm loving co-sleeping with Lily. I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It Won't Be Like This for Long

When I'm not listening to Bluegrass or NPR, I'll often check out what's on the country station (much to the chagrin of my pop-loving 18 month old, or my indy-loving husband). But the other week when Zosia was in the middle of her teething-stage-from-hell when she was inconsolable and grumpy for a week, this song came on the radio when the whole family was in the car, and I think it really spoke to both me and Ben. I have a hard time listening to it without tearing up, and it feels very apropos right now.

Sleeping Through the Night

One of, if not the single, hot button issue about babies is sleep. I still remember going out with Zosia when she was a week old only to have numerous people ask me, "Is she sleeping through the night?" I wanted to answer, "No, of course not! She's one week old." Every baby advice book seems to have been created with the single goal of getting your baby to sleep through the night. And I really bought into the idea that a good baby is one that sleeps through the night the first time around. Zosia was always a great sleeper-- even at one or two weeks she would sleep for 3 and a half hour blocks at night. But at the time, I despaired at this fact. Why wasn't she sleeping for 8 hour blocks yet? And even when she was sleeping 4 or 5 hours at a time, I was wide awake worrying and stressing about the fact that she wasn't sleeping longer.

Oh, how things change with time! Since then I have learned a number of things, partly from bringing one baby into toddlerhood, and partly from talking to other mothers. There are the mothers who insist their babies slept through the night from the beginning. I firmly think that they either A) are one of the very very few lucky ones, B) have forgotten the first days of having a baby or C) are confused. The truth seems to be that most babies wake up at least once a night until they are much older, often one (especially if you do not let them "cry it out"). Some start sleeping "through the night" earlier, but backtrack often, like whenever they're working on a tooth. Others wake up well into their second year of life. That is normal! So your options as a parent are either to fight it or embrace it-- which is hard information to swallow as a new parent.

Of course I am going to try the "tricks" to get Lily to sleep longer once she gets a bit older (even the baby trainers admit that newborn babies can't be sleep trained). Some of those include sneaking in to give her a nighttime feeding before I go to sleep at night, swaddling her (though as I mentioned before, this one doesn't seem to like swaddling), white noise, etc. But then again, I think I might opt for another route with her, which is just being relaxed about sleep. I think Lily is a prime candidate for co-sleeping (which is what she's been doing for her first week). She's a great sleeper, too-- often going three or four hours without waking up. And the truth is, when I'm sleeping right next to her, I can just whip out a breast, feed her, and am usually back asleep before she's even done with her feeding. In the morning, I have no idea how many times she woke up. It's not unlike sleeping with a spouse: generally, both partners will wake up slightly during the night, and drift back to sleep without really thinking of it. Compared to the end of pregnancy, when I was up to use the bathroom multiple times a night, couldn't find a comfortable position, etc., having a newborn is, so far, feeling really restful.

And the truth is that this time around, I am so much more willing to embrace each stage as it comes. With Zosia, we were fairly sure we were going to have another baby at some point. This time around, we just don't know. So when I look at Lily's sleepy little face at night, or rock her to sleep, I really relish it. When I look at my big almost 2-year old, I know that each stage flies by, and a baby is only a newborn for a short little time.

So here's to that wonderful stage of human life that requires consistent attention. I know Lily, like Zosia, will eventually sleep through the night. But I'm quite happy with the fact that for now, that isn't the case.

(BTW, that's Zosia in her first days, not Lily!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

To make or not to make?

We're big on homemade around here. We've tried making a lot of stuff, and have successfully done so over the years for several staples: granola, baked goods and pizza crust are just about always homemade around here, and in less chaotic stages of my life so is bread, raspberry jam (when I can find a free source of wild berries) and occasionally yogurt (no homemade cheese, which will probably remain the case after seeing pictures of Aaron's cheesemaking adventure). I've always wondered about whether homemade stuff is actually cheaper, though-- once, we roasted a whole turkey (in the heat of summer... bad idea) because we thought it might be a cheaper source of lunchmeat.. which in the end, I really am not sure that it was. Partly because we ended up eating it much quicker than regular lunch meat.

So the frugal person in me loved this analysis at slate about what homemade items are worth making at home.
My one major disagreement is over granola: we make our own granola out of oats, wheat germ, flour, oil, water, honey, and vanilla, and when each of those ingredients is bought in bulk, it comes out much cheaper than any store bought version. But all in all, I appreciate the article. The verdicts? Yes to bagles, yogurt, jam when fruit is free, and granola. no to cream cheese and crackers.

Monday, April 27, 2009

On Marrying Young

I had a good laugh this weekend reading the Opinions section of the Washington Post, where there were not one, but two articles about the benefits of marrying young.
Partly because their definition of "young," 26, seems kind of middle of the road to me, having been married a good bit younger than that. But whatever.

It's funny to think about getting married so young in one regard-- I know that Ben and I have nieces who, I'm sure, will turn 20 in the blink of an eye (one is already 15), and I'm sure that they will seem ridiculously young to us when they do. Even now, looking back at our wedding pictures, I think, "Wow, we were such babies." And we were. Neither of us had ever lived "in the real world." We were still college students. Ben was the only person I had really seriously dated, and I was the only person he had ever dated. We didn't have real jobs, let alone "careers." So by most modern standards (and certainly, within the community that we grew up in), we were crazy to be getting married. And believe me, there were people who let us know they thought so, not to mention the countless others who, bless their hearts, thought so and didn't say a thing.

I guess the modern wisdom about marriage goes something like this: figure out "who you are" first, when you're in your 20's, before you get into anything too serious relationship-wise. Don't make any major life decisions based on relationships. Establish a successful career first. And we didn't do any of that.

But while I'm not ready to step out and say that I endorse all young marriages, over the years I have found that for us, there were some benefits. It was nice to start out our marriage with absolutely (and I really do mean absolutely) no possessions, and very little money, in a place where material stuff didn't have much meaning or value to us. I think that part of the reason that Ben and I are still committed to simplicity is that we learned to live together happily in simplicity out of necessity. Also, it has been nice to build our lives and careers around our family-- and I think that both of us put our family before our careers because of it. Let's see... what else is there? During our 20s as we are "figuring out who we are," we are also doing so in the context of our relationship, which has meant that we have become more compatible. And then, obviously, there's the fact that getting married young has enabled us to have kids young, which is great not only because it seems like the human body is designed to do it that way, but also because we can enjoy our kids for a lot longer, and will be able to really live it up in retirement (okay, actually, we're planning on living in a yurt or a commune).

But obviously there are so many beautiful marriages that happened later in life, and a lot of reasons that people have loved that arrangement as well. I'm just saying that where in previous generations getting married young was the norm and it was "radical" to get married older, the pendulum has definitely swung the other way. And marrying young can work out just fine.

We Know Nothing

Ben and I thought we had figured babies out-- we already had one, after all, and we figured out how to keep her happy and healthy thus far. Well, surprise, surprise, we actually don't really know anything. Or at least we know very little.

Based on the prototype of Zosia, we assumed that all babies like to be swaddled, like to be in a swing, like to be shushed, and need to be on a very strict schedule. Over the first couple weeks of Zosia's life, we learned that these four ingredients were absolutely essential to her and our emotional wellbeing. So, of course, we had all of our requisite supplies ready for Lily, assuming that she, like Zosia likes all of these things. But apparently, she likes none of them. I'm not complaining-- Lily is actually one of those rare "easy babies" that I used to read about and doubt existed. She likes to be unswaddled, actually prefers just lying on her back (rather than in a swing or carseat), and does just fine without any white noise. And she is sort of okay just setting her own schedule-- she falls asleep when she feels like it, and then can be awake for what I consider to be unreasonably long periods for a newborn (like, 3 hours) all the while remaining totally happy.

So now, of course, I am convinced that there are two types of babies: the Zosias and Lilys of the world. But I'm open to being proven wrong.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Things I Enjoy...

About not being pregnant

Being able to:
  • see my toes
  • shave my legs comfortably while I'm in the shower
  • lie on my back and stomach
  • move around the house without bumping into everything
  • have Zosia sit on my lap and snuggle
  • snuggle with Ben
  • actually give a satisfactory hug
  • not pee every hour or two at night
  • sit up from lying down in less than five minutes
  • actually see the baby that I spent 10 months growing!
Not that I'm complaining about having been pregnant... it's just that this time around I was feeling pretty ready to move onto the next stage.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

On The Name

I thought I'd write a brief note about how we decided upon Lily's name-- just a brief warning, I am still recovering from a lost night of sleep from the labor.

So, as many of you know, Lily was a bit of a surprise to our household. Ben was asking me yesterday whether we were in our new house yet when we found out we were expecting, which was funny, because I will always remember the moment that I found out. As we were unpacking stuff, I came upon a calendar (while we were moving, it was sort of a time warp). I had remembered thinking that my period was a little late, but when I looked at the calendar I realized that it was like 8 days late or something. Immediately, a feeling of dread overtook me. At that moment, I knew. But, still in denial, I put Zosia in the stroller and walked down to Rite Aid (all the while, terrified). We bought a pregnancy test, walked home, and I took it the second we got home. Sure enough, totally pregnant. I think my initial reaction was to laugh. It was just so unlikely and ridiculous that I should be pregnant. And then I'm sure that I cried, because I really could not imagine having another child in our house.

Ben came home from work, and when I told him his reaction was none other than total joy and excitement. He was thrilled, which I honestly did not get because the whole thing felt very out of control and terrifying to me. Zosia was carefully planned, we tried to get pregnant, and the whole thing felt somehow within our control. And here I was, experiencing a pregnancy that I did not will into existence.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks and months, a transformation started happening within me. Slowly, I started realizing that there was beauty and sacredness in saying "yes" to the unknown-- in this case, a new life. I started getting over myself, my "plans" and realizing that it is possible that perhaps the total unlikeliness of my being pregnant meant that this was something that truly was meant to happen, that God was in control of it all.

As the pregnancy progressed, I dealt with a lot of uncertainty. I didn't know who this baby would be, what she would be like, how she would fit into our family. And each time I felt totally fearful I eventually came to a place where I placed my trust in God.

I'm not one of those people who believes that God always makes sure that things go perfectly for Her peeps. I know that's not true. But there were so many experiences through my pregnancy that were so unlikely and dramatic that I feel like the hand of God has to be in there. Like the fact that Zosia, who when I found out that I was pregnant didn't walk, still breastfed, and still woke up at night, started walking, weaned herself, and sleeping through the night within a week of me finding out about the pregnancy (giving me a huge sigh of relief and the ability to imagine life with a newborn and a toddler). Or the smoothness of the pregnancy. Or the fact that Zosia got her molars the week before the baby was born. There were just many moments that I was left to wonder, "Is that you, God?"

And it's hard for me to even verbalize the emotions that I've been feeling since the birth. Lillian is just such a lovely child, and my heart overflows with love for her. With Zosia, since we had been trying to get pregnant, I somehow felt like she was my accomplishment, and I felt entitled to her. But with Lily, since she was so unexpected, I feel entirely like she is a gift. Every smile, every snuggly moment, every minute of time together is something entirely unmerited by me.

Up until the moment of the birth, we didn't know what Lily's name would be. There were several strong contenders. But in the end, we both felt like Lillian Marie was the most appropriate. There's the fact that Lily waited to come until the day in spring that every flower is in perfect bloom. Or that we wanted to name her something gentle and unassuming, because throughout the pregnancy I had the overwhelming sense that that's what her personality was like. But really, I felt like Lillian was perfect because its meaning, "My God is a vow" so perfectly describes the realization that I came to through Lillian's unexpected conception and birth. The realization that in every challenging situation and desperate moment, God is so fully present as the promise of unconditional love. And as we watch Lily grow into the woman that she will become, I am sure that God's love will be even more fully revealed to us through her life.

And Marie, which happens to be my own middle name, has many levels of significance, too. I knew I wanted Lily to be named for my great Aunt Marisia (the polish diminutive of Mary), who was an amazing woman that spent her entire life serving and caring for children despite never having any of her own. She was unassuming, gentle, and loving, and one of those people who lived her life entirely out of the realm of public acknowledgment or acclaim. She was invisible and humble, but her legacy is so present in the many children that she loved through their infancy (Irene and myself included). And of course the fact that Marie is a form of Mary, who models the whole idea of saying "yes" to God in difficult, unexpected, and unknown circumstances.

So, there it is! The long and complete story of how Lillian Marie came to be. She truly is such a joy, and just when I felt like my heart was filled with all the love it could hold, it has expanded with a bounty of love for this new beautiful little life.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Relinquishing Control

We have spent the last couple of days adjusting to Lillian being in the family, and it has been surprisingly smooth. Zosia loves to take care of Lily, Lily seems to be a great sleeper and nurser, and is actually happy being awake for pretty long periods of time, which was never the case with #1. And we've been accepting huge amounts of help, including the help of at least one adult every day of the week with Zosia. But as I'm looking forward to next week, when Ben goes back to work part time, and the week after that, when Ben's back at work and we cut back on help, I'm starting to realize that I can no longer imagine that I am in control of everything that happens in this house.

I don't know if I mentioned this or not, but last week Zosia was being an extremely high needs toddler. For several days, she literally followed me around the house chanting "Ma-ma! Ma-ma!" crying. And it was frustrating not only because nothing that I did seemed to sooth her, but also because I felt really limited because I was so pregnant (and couldn't really hold her, or play very actively with her, etc). We had no idea what was going on, and ultimately on Monday (before I went into labor), Ben went to an after hours doctor to get her checked out to rule out anything serious. The doctor didn't find anything, but lo and behold, yesterday when I was taking a bath with Zosia she let me look in her mouth and I found two big new molars poking out of her gums. The whole experience of her being so fussy and me being unable to help her was such a feeling of powerlessness, which is something that I haven't experienced that much with Zosia. When she was little, I pretty much felt like between keeping a consistent routine, taking measures to calm her, and limiting outside factors, I was able to keep her happy.

However, the last couple of days, I have definitely realized that being in control is not something that I will feel in the next weeks. There are simply times that I won't be able to keep everyone happy-- like this morning, when I was nursing Lily and Zosia was convinced that she should be the one on my lap (and kept saying "Swing!" commanding me to place Lily in the swing). But I'm trying to roll with it and be humbled by the fact that I am not in control, and even when I thought I was in control in the past, I still wasn't really in control. I guess such is the experience of being a parent, but man, it's still hard.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Welcome Lillian!

The proud big sister.

Getting the weight with the midwife: 8 lbs 6 oz

We have had quite an amazing couple of days, starting with Monday night when I started feeling a little contractiony in the evening. I ended up calling Irene at around midnight, asking her to come over. The midwife showed up around 2, the birth assistant shortly thereafter, and Lillian Marie Collins was born on our basement couch at 5:30 in the morning. The birth was so easy and beautiful (I guess they say that second babies are easy)-- up until the very end, we were snacking and chit chatting between contractions, and then Lily was born in two big pushes. And there have been few days that I have felt so surrounded by love, between our little family, our larger family, and friends it has been truly a beautiful time.

So, we're still catching naps with Lily as we can, and have help lined up with Zosia for the next week-- who, by the way, has stepped up to the role of big sister beautifully. Lily is a very sweet tempered baby, and an all-star nurser, which is such a relief. I am struggling to comply with midwive's orders of essentially being on bedrest for two weeks, but know that it's just what my body needs. Ben is home full time for a couple of days, and part time for another week. And we are all counting our blessings and giving thanks for the beginning of a new life! Here are a few pictures!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Being Over-Ready?

I remember when I was in high school and preparing to play a concerto (on the flute... yes, I play the flute) with my area youth orchestra, the conductor advised me early in the year not to over-practice. Little did he know that over-practicing was never really a problem for me.... But, I get what he was saying. Sometimes you just prepare something to the point of it losing its spontaneity, its charm, its capacity to be something new.

And here I find myself, either at or slightly before my due date, feeling like I may have failed to heed this good piece of advice. Last time around I didn't get ready enough and regretted it-- I still remember coming home totally and absolutely exhausted from a run to Target with my mom two days after Zosia was born. There were just things that I hadn't thought of: like the fact that I would want some postpartum clothes that would be easy to breastfeed in and more comfortable than pre-pregnancy stuff. Or that I would want a baby bathtub, or more warm suits, or whatever. Anyway, I still remember how tiring and draining it was to try to do anything in those first days of having a newborn, while still recovering from the exhaustion of birth and adjusting to breastfeeding. So this time I have certainly not made the same mistake twice, and pledged early on to be prepared for this baby.

But you know what? I sort of think I was ready for this baby something like 3 weeks ago. We had all of the supplies for the birth, the baby's room ready, etc. It's nice to be sitting here totally and completely prepared. I mean, we have everything-- clothes for me for after the birth, toys for Zosia, snacks for the midwife and doula for the birth, etc. Ben and I just got back from a monster grocery run to get lots of easy meals and fresh fruit to have around the house because we're seriously feeling that this baby is coming in the near future. But now that I'm sort of feeling a real surge of nesting instinct, I have nothing to do with myself! How unsatisfying.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Parenting Continues

It's fun to get to the stage of parenthood that actually requires more than pulling out a breast/ rocking a baby to sleep-- however noble both of those things might be. I am definitely one of those parents that loves watching children come into their own. Newborns are cute, and I'm excited to meet this next one, but it's so cool to see Zosia at an age that she can actually express herself, show us her personality, show us how she views the world. It definitely does seem like parenthood gets better and better with time, but it also starts to feel like a greater responsibility.

Last night Ben and I had a little parenting huddle about Zosia. Now, those of you who have met Zosia know that she has always been a little firecracker. She has strong feelings about the way the world around her should be ordered and lets us know about it. She's almost always the one requesting that things happen a certain way, and can get very frustrated when the world does not comply. It's hilarious to watch our OCD toddler work her way around the house. She'll make sure that all of the closet doors are closed, put all of the trash in the trashcan, even put laundry in the hamper. She hates getting dirty, and as our backyard is currently more mud than grass, it takes a great deal of coaxing to even get her to step into the yard, because she'll scrunch her face up and proclaim, "Muddy!" When Irene and I were prepping the garden we tried to convince her to get in the dirt and shovel-- forget about it. Zosia just has a concrete idea of what is proper and what is not and likes to stick to the rules.

So how do we parent this little child? How do we help her live in a world that does not always comply to one's sense of order? And how do we help her use the gifts of her personality-- and every aspect of Zosia or any child's personality truly is a gift-- in the most graceful way possible? We honestly are not sure how we will approach these questions over the next sixteen or howevermany years. But I think that for now we've agreed to try to help her maintain a minimal sense of order while also trying to help her get a sense that some things aren't a big deal. For us, this means sometimes letting her "get away" with things that we might not necessarily allow a child with a different temperment to do. For example, one of the few times of day that Zosia is really truly playful and mischievous is when she is eating. She just sees the creative potential in the messy, interesting things that she eats. At times, we've cracked down on her impolite table manners, which it's tempting to do, especially when we're in public or around family and friends. But really, this child just needs to play and be funny and realize that it's okay to get dirty. I'm sure if one day we decide we don't want her to continue with her dinner silliness, it will take all of one or two times of correction for her to decide, of her own will, that she doesn't want to continue-- she's just that kind of kid. But for now, we're valuing the development of her creativity and curiosity over her rule following, because that's what it seems like she needs.

And, the flip side of the issue is also true-- we've learned to become more ordered in ways that seem to be important to Zosia. For example, Zosia seems to really like to have landmarks on our walks that give her a sense of where she is and where she is going. If we just turn around and start heading home, she might become upset (or if we're just wandering aimlessly, forget about it), but if we remind her that we're looking for the easter eggs on the tree or the owl in our neighbor's yard, she gets excited about looking for those landmarks and understands that we're going home. So I guess this whole parenting thing is a two way street-- as we're trying to develop and encourage one little person, we end up being challenged and transformed aswell.

Birthing Rituals

Wow! I am actually the first one up in the house... which never happens anymore, especially since Ben generously offered to watch the baby in the morning so I could sleep in during these late weeks of pregnancy. It is such a beautiful morning out: everything is still wet from the last two days of spring showers, but there's so much light green everywhere, and it's cool, but the sky holds promise for a sunny day.

These last few days, especially as we've been feeling the reality of this upcoming birth, I've been thinking about birthing rituals. Especially for a Catholic, I am a horrible at rituals. If it weren't for the routine of being in a family, I think I would shun rituals and tradition all together. However, even though ritual-making isn't my natural forte, some of my fondest memories of growing up center around various traditions, routines and rituals that were a part of daily life. I know that my little order-enforcer Zosia seems to thrive on rituals-- bathing rituals, bedtime rituals, mealtime rituals. Since she's been tiny, like 9 months or something, she has picked up on the fact that we join hands before meals to say grace. She just likes that sort of thing. So recently, I've been intentional about trying to create routine and ritual even in times or places that it doesn't feel particularly necessary to me. And I know that not only will those around me appreciate it (Ben is also one of those people who loves to have "special things" to pull out at certain times of year, or special foods to eat on certain occasions), but I have found that I really like it too, when all is said and done.

I've been thinking about what things are birthing rituals for me. There were few things that I intentionally did the first time around about the birth-- it was just such unknown territory that I had no concrete plans. But even so, here are some "rituals" about my birth with Zosia that I hope to be able to continue with this baby.

The days before Zosia's delivery were filled with long walks. Ben and I had been told that first babies are almost always late (on average 10 days past due date), and we really didn't want an induction, so we did everything within our power to naturally stimulate labor-- walking (and, by the way, ahem, marital unity) being one of the best ways to get it going. So we went on epic walks through Cambridge starting a couple of days before the birth. It was a wonderful time to be together, talk about the baby, have Ben push me up tall hills (cut me some slack, I was 10 months pregnant!). Long walks were very much a part of our daily life back then... these days, especially during the harsh winter months with a toddler, not so much. So hopefully in the next couple of days (with a beautiful forecast) we'll be able to carve out some time for a couple of nice treks through Falls Church.

The picture above is of a moo-moo that I bought at a thrift store in Atlanta. Ben gave me such grief when I purchased it, but it has come in handy-- it has become my official birthing outfit. I wore it through my labor with Zosia, and the other day when I went into warm up labor, I had tried it on in the morning to make sure it still fits. So I totally think this dress has weird labor powers. And it's all ready for this birth-- and future births, and is also available for loan should anyone be interested (I had already given it to my sister because I was sure that she would be the next one to have a baby... what's the hold up?? ;-).

When I was pregnant with Zosia, a dental assistant of all people told me that she felt like the first shower after she delivered her son was this magical experience. She encouraged me to prepare special soap, special shampoo, special lotion all in preparation for the first shower that you can actually see your toes in months. After labor (which is basically the most athletic experience of my life thus far), a shower felt amazing, and I imagine that this post-delivery shower in my very own bathroom will be even better. Yesterday when I was out getting last minute things ready, I did pick up special bathing supplies, resting on our dresser top right now, to prepare for the post-delivery ritual.

There are other things too, but I can sense that I'll have to stop myself (man, I'm verbose in the morning! No more morning blogging). We're hoping to have a placenta ceremony in the yard. Family and friends coming to care for us and prepare yummy foods is a wonderful memory, and there is no better way to a nursing woman's heart than through food-- once again, my sister Irene is coming to help with food and household stuff for the birth. We have special gifts prepared for Zosia for the birth, along with some special childcare lined up, so should we have more kids, that might become a ritual. And I imagine that homebirth is very fertile ground for all sorts of other special family rituals-- we'll just have to see how the spirit moves us. And while all of these are things I'm hoping will be present during this birth, I'm also open to them changing, or new things being introduced, or us just not feeling like doing one particular thing or another. Don't forget-- I'm bad at rituals!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Almost There

Yesterday we thought that we were going to have the baby! But alas, here I am, still quite pregnant, but happy to be letting my body do what it thinks best. Here's the whole story. Around 4 in the afternoon, I started noticing pretty regular contractions-- about every 7 minutes. Unlike my contractions with Zosia, which felt sort of like menstrual cramps, these felt really muscular. It felt like my whole uterus was flexing (which actually felt cool, not annoying). We tentatively started making some phone calls around dinner time, and the midwives encouraged us to just have as normal an evening as possible, which we did. We put the baby to bed, relaxed through the evening, and then went to bed nice and early. At some point in the evening, I realized that the contractions weren't quite as regular, and by the time I went to bed, I was still having contractions, but not strong enough to keep me from falling asleep. And during the night, they must have faded away, because here I am sans baby.

Apparently these sorts of warm up contractions are normal, and actually wonderful for preparing your body for labor. Today I've been taking it super easy, minimizing physical activity and hanging with the peeps around the house. Tomorrow morning I'm thinking about taking a nice energizing walk to see if maybe that invites some labor (which it would be nice to have during the day given the choice). We'll see what happens, but we're starting to get very excited around here. There's nothing quite like welcoming a new life to the world!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Family Farm

I have often fantasized about living "off the land." I have read many books about this, have browsed real estate listings to see whether it would be feasible, and even almost convinced Ben to move to the country when we moved back to Virginia. The other day, my friend Carolyn and I realized that we both shared the dream of living in farm communes-- only she has actually spent some time living in intentional community, whereas for me it's just another pipedream. However, as we talked about our vision of having a farm in the country where young and old, able and disabled could live together and support one another through farming, we realized that at heart, we are both just city people without any real agricultural experience. Our hopes for the future overshadow our actual experience (or lack there of) with the difficulties of farm life. I mean, there's a reason why suburbs were created, and I'm sure some of it had to do with the fact that farming is hard work.

Several months after moving back to Virginia (to a small towny suburb, not the country), I am praising the lord that we're not on a farm. First of all, I have realized that as the mother of a young child, it's priceless to have friends that live in your neighborhood-- within a short walk. Second, it's amazing to be close enough to family to actually be able to mooch. And I like a lot of "city stuff." Some highlights of our week are almost always going to see Mr. Skip play guitar and sing at Stacey's Coffeehouse, or going to the library for a book reading, or going to the playground for playgroup. I love going for walks on the small roads of Falls Church, and love looking at what people have planted in their gardens, or meeting new people who are working on their houses.

But, I must admit, that somewhere beneath my joy at being here, I am still curious what it would be like to live on a farm. I stumbled upon Amy's Humble Musings a little while back, and occasionally will check in to see what she's writing about, and I loved her recent post entitled Observations on Our First Months of Farm Living. To be totally honest, I don't know all the details, but apparently she and her family moved to the country and are trying their hand at sustenance farming. Here are some highlights of her post:

  • Children have lots of things to do when you're living on a farm (I imagine this would be most true for older toddler and kids) . "The children roam, romp, and play outside, and I don’t have to watch for speeding cars and pedophiles. In this way, it’s easier. I’m sure the kids have moaned that they were bored, but they never actually have been bored. There are creeks to dam up, eggs to find, roosters to tease, dogs to train, a baby calf to walk on a leash, hay bales to jump, traps to set, trees to climb, nuts to crack, cow milk to squirt at the cats, wild daffodils to pick, forts to build, and berries to pick."
  • When you're living on a farm, in order to survive you should be realistic about what you can do yourself. Example: Amy's family buys stuff from Walmart regularly, including yogurt (even though they have a milk cow) and occasionally meat (even though they raise their own beef). "I’ve seen where people say that they “made their own laundry detergent”. (This is not a smack down, just an observation. I love ladies who make laundry detergent. You are my best girls.) What they really mean, however, is that they bought the ingredients from Wal-Mart and assembled laundry detergent. There is a huge difference. Without Wal-Mart, you’re sunk."
It's so interesting to get a glimpse into what living on a farm might be like, and it's also nice to realize that while it's a fulfilling existence, it's not the utopia that I think I often make it out to be. I think that just as before being a parent, I totally idealized what it would be like to have a child (it is amazing, but there are the sleepless nights, grumpy babies, and poopy diapers), I also tend to gloss over what some of the struggles of farm life might be. Let's just say that for now I'm happy to read my farm books, my farm blogs, and tend to my teeny tiny garden here in the burbs.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Sacred Feminine Spirit

Last night Ben and I went to the Easter Vigil mass at our church-- a very special service, because Ben was entering the Catholic church. It was beautiful-- albeit long, a fact compounded by the bi-lingual service. But as those of you who are Catholic know, the Easter Vigil is the "mother" of all masses. It has more incense, more chanting, more "pageantry," than any other service of the whole year. It is beautiful, and has often been my favorite service, but also embodies some of the things that turn people away from the Catholic church. Yesterday was no exception, and as I watched five priests process to the altar (a typical mass would have only one, maybe two), I was reminded of the fact that our church has been so dominated by male voices that it's often hard to imagine the Sacred as anything other than one of those white haired men sitting up front.

So I'm sitting in the service, very very pregnant, paying attention and enjoying being at a mass that I can focus at, but also sort of dozing in and out of my "zone," when I notice one of the altar servers up front. Now, this is the first big service that I have been to back at my home diocese since girls were finally allowed to become altar servers a year or two ago (mine was one of the two diocese that resisted the change when I was in highschool). So I'm still pleasantly surprised whenever I see a female altar server. Anyway, this girl was spunky: she was a head shorter than any of the other altar servers, and her long wild black hair was barely contained by the elastic holding it back. She was maybe 9, maybe 10, and didn't look too concerned with any of the formality and pomp and circumstance going on around her. A time or two, she got up and wandered off of the altar, only to come back a few minutes later.

During the Gloria, which is a dramatic point in the service-- the moment that the lights are turned on, and the service transitions from being a one of watchful waiting to one of celebration, this little girl just decided to start clapping. No one else in the whole church was clapping-- actually, most people looked a little groggy after the solemnity of the first part of the service. But this little ten year old girl, on an altar with five stodgy old men and several other older altar servers, decided to clap. She started out just clapping the beat to herself, but quickly started improvising with double claps, or knocking her fists instead of her palms together. Sometimes she would stop, and then start up again. In fact, she seemed totally and completely unaware of the fact that she was even up there, or that there was a full church of eyes upon her. She was just obliviously and joyfully clapping, even though no one else in the church ever really joined in with her. It was amazing, and about halfway through the song, I felt this overwhelming presence of the Sacred Feminine, of Mother God.

The vigil was beautiful and moving, culminating in the baptisms and confirmations, which were a total joy to witness, especially since aside from being able to finally share in Communion with the most beloved person in the world to me, I knew the stories of so many of the people that Ben has come to love who are in the RCIA program. And even now I smile to know that lurking in the corner-- or rather, on the altar-- of this Church that I love so dearly and yet struggle with so vehemently, God was ever so present among us, clapping her beat out freely and carelessly.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Suffering God

I never knew Nancy Eiesland while I was at Emory. However, when she died last month, I started learning about her theology and was truly compelled by what she had to say-- it's been with me for the past several weeks, and I suspect will influence my understanding of and relationship to God for many years to come. Nancy Eiesland's work revolved largely around what she called a "theology of the disabled." Namely, she explored the ways that God relates to those with disabilities (something close to her heart as she herself was disabled), much in the same way that others have explored how God relates to the poor, the oppressed, women, or African Americans. She pioneered a new branch of liberation theology-- one in which God has a special relationship with the disabled.

I've been thinking a lot about Nancy Eiesland's work these past couple of days-- the Easter Triduum, when we ponder the death and resurrection of Jesus. I've been thinking about what it means to worship a God that came to earth to be wounded-- a God whose autonomy was taken away, and became powerless. These last couple of weeks I have ceratinly experienced a loss of some power and autonomy through my pregnancy. I know that there are others in my family that are in the midst of this same experience due to failing health, aging, or anxiety. I imagine that such a loss of autonomy and power must be central to the experience of living with a disability. One is probably humbled on a daily basis by the need to accept help or ask for it because of very real physical limitations.

So what does it mean to worship a God that lives with such limitations, that is not just a resurrected God, as we remember tomorrow morning, but a suffering God? One insight in Nancy Eiesland's work is that when Jesus appears to the disciples after his death and resurrection, the way that they identify him is through touching his wounds. The mark of his earthly limitation is not only present (nor is it only a scar or a scab or something), but it has become the central aspect of his identity. Jesus, and God therefore, embody suffering-- something that even the resurrection does not erase.

I love Easter and, as I have mentioned here before, often struggle with lent-- I either avoid it or try to "work through it," just as I suppose I try to work through suffering in my own life. But I think that the idea of a suffering God-- a God that finds holiness and peace and presence even amidst woundedness-- has started to transform the way that I think about the reality of life. Nancy Eiesland often said that she believed that in heaven she would be disabled, just as she was here on earth. In fact, she believed that God Herself was disabled. So on this Holy Saturday, in the hours before we proclaim "He is Risen," I am trying to be present with the suffering in my own life, my own family, and truly embrace it is part of the sacred reality.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Photo Updates

Here's a bit of what we've been up to around here.
The first daffodils of spring, courtesy of my sister Irene:

One happy toddler:

The baby's room, which we anticipate will probably just be a playroom for Zosia for the next several months:

Irene came over yesterday to help me (read: do all the work) prepare the soil for our spring garden and plant the first few crops: strawberries, radishes, carrots, mixed greens, spinach, and peas.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Taste of Summer

Yesterday I made some "Wild Blueberry Pie", which technically was a misuse of the big bag of frozen wild blueberries I bought (supposedly for adding to Zosia's yogurt... but how could I resist?) Anyway, it was amazing, and so I thought I would share the oh-so-simple recipe here. I've found that frozen wild blueberries are best bought either at Costco, or at Trader Joe's (they're a bit expensive anywhere else). I guess the best thing would be just to freeze the wild blueberries that you pick in the summer, but what can I say? Ben and I are slackers.

1 pie crust (make your own or buy a frozen one... which is what I did)
5 cups wild blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 T corn starch
2 T flour
1/2 t. cinnamon

1. Thaw blueberries on high in microwave. Drain, reserving 2 T of the liquid.
2. Mix sugar, corn starch, flour, and cinnamon.
3. Add powders to thawed blueberries with reserved liquid, and place in pie crust (technically, you're supposed to put another pie crust on top and cut slits, but we like blueberry pie open faced).
4. Bake at 400 for 40-50 minutes, or until center is bubbling.

See, isn't that easy? I made two and am keeping one for after the birth, although seeing as half of one is already gone (this counts as a fruit serving, right??), I'm wondering if the other is going to make it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cloth Diapers-- How We Do It

I remember when we were getting ready for Zosia, we were overwhelmed by cloth diapers. How would we do it? How many did we need? What type would be best? So, here's what we arrived at, and what ended up working for us:

We got our cloth diapers through We found that their diapers are much better than the ones you would get at Babies R Us, let alone Walmart, and quite affordable. What you need to get started is around 10 Bummi covers for each size (these are awesome... they're a velcro pocket diaper cover that you just slip your prefolds into), and 3 dozen prefold diapers for each size. Now, I know from exprience that Ben and I have big babies. Zosia spent a couple of weeks in the "newborn" size before she outgrew them and went into "small." In retrospect, we could have totally skipped the newborn ones. However, if you don't know, I would get a handful of newborn covers, and then 10 small and 10 medium, and 3 dozen each of the infant size prefolds and the regular size prefolds. This should get you through your first year! Don't worry about "diaper doublers" "diaper liners," and other stuff. I found that I didn't need them (but I wasn't cloth diapering at night... you might want these if you're going to be using cloth through the night). All of these supplies should cost you $300 or so... not bad, considering that you would be spending $40 a month minimum on disposables, which means that you've broken even in 7 months... let alone if you end up reusing these diapers with multiple children).

So, now that you have your diapers in the mail, you have to get some supplies together to deal with maintaining your diapers. If you have a regular old laundry machine as opposed to a front loader, things will be easier for you. I recommend a "dry pail" method. Basically, you will go down to Home Depot and buy two big old 5-gallon plastic pails. These have secure lids and are perfect for cloth diapering. One will be for diapers with pee (pardon the toddler language), one for diapers with poop. Now, you will want to get a huge container of baking soda, a big container of Borax (available next to laundry stuff, typically), and a big thing of vinegar, along with the detergent of your choice (there is generally absolutely no need to get special baby detergent... regular stuff works great). Sprinkle a healthy dose of baking soda into the bottom of each pail and put it next to the changing table, or wherever you'll be dealing with diapers. Now, when the baby has a wet diaper, just toss it into the one pail. When the baby has a dirty diaper, toss it in the other (for the first 6 months at least, there is no need to rinse poopy diapers or to shake them out. Just toss them in the pail, poop and all.)

Every two or three days, take your two pails to your laundry area. Toss the poopy diapers into the laundry machine, put in a scoop of baking soda, and if they really need to get clean, some borax (although this will wear out your diapers when used too much, so use sparingly) and turn the machine on the "soak" cycle. Soak the poopy diapers overnight. This might require some tampering with your laundry machine (I remember in our old apartment, we had to turn on the soak cycle, let the machine fill up, and then turn the machine off in order to accomplish a soak overnight). In the morning, add the pee diapers, put in the detergent (and some vinegar, if they have a strong urine smell), and run the machine as usual. Pop it in the dryer, and you have some clean diapers ready to use.

Now, a word about the diaper covers. You do not need to change these with every pee or even poo diaper! That's the trick to only needing 10 or so. Often, the cover will remain dry even when the inside is wet. Sometimes, the cover will be damp. These are made out of polyester, and dry quickly, so just lay it out somewhere where it can air out, and put on a dry cover. I would only wash the diaper covers once a week or so. Basically, avoid washing it unless you get some poop directly onto the diaper cover.

That's what worked for us, and how we're planning on doing cloth diapers this time around. Once you have figured out the system, it really is quick and easy... especially if there's one person that doesn't mind doing the extra load of laundry every couple of days.

However, as I've mentioned, I'm not for cloth diapers in all circumstances. For the first few weeks, I would recommend using newborn disposables-- these are specially cut to leave the belly button open, which is important while it's healing. Also, we preferred disposables at night because we could leave a single diaper on all night without a single leak. Likewise, I preferred using disposables while we were out and about-- although I hear that with a properly sealed bag, you can just "pack out" your dirty diapers. And lastly, if you're planning on having your infant in a group-care environment (daycare or even leaving him/her with another mom during the day) for any substantial period of time, I would honestly just skip the cloth diapers. They're really not that much better for the environment than disposables, and I just wouldn't impose the burden of doing cloth on anyone outside of my immediate family... I know that if I were caring for multiple infants, I would resent too many "specific" instructions. And if you're going to have to buy disposables for daycare, then I would say that the cost of cloth diapers becomes much less worth it.

Whew! I NEVER thought I would have that much to say about diapers, but there it is. Every last word of it. Good luck!

Friday, April 3, 2009

To Cloth Diaper or Not to Cloth Diaper?

As we've been getting things ready for baby #2, one question that's popped into our mind is: do we cloth diaper? Zosia was a cloth diaper baby for the first 9 months of her life, and as I mentioned here, I love a lot of things about cloth diapers. However, during our move, cloth diapering wasn't practical-- and Ben and I didn't feel comfortable imposing our cloth diapering on my parents' laundry machine when we were living there. Then, when we moved into this house, a combination of the fact that the laundry machine isn't very accessible plus the fact that it is totally on its last legs (and that Zosia didn't really fit into her diapers anymore, meaning that we would have to buy a new batch), made us decide to go with disposables. Now that she's an on-the-go toddler, I'm thankful for the increased mobility that disposables provide, and I've also found that she fits much more comfortably into baby clothes that are her size (those bulky cloth diapers add at least one, sometimes two sizes).

So, as you can tell, we're anything but legalistic when it comes to cloth diapers. I'm still debating whether and to what extent we'll use cloth diapers with #2. We have all of the supplies, so that makes things much easier. I think where I stand right now on the whole thing is that when we're at home, during the day, we'll use cloth-- and Ben has said he'd be happy to be in charge of washing them every couple of days (and my friend Carolyn who lives a couple of houses down also said we would be welcome to add them to her load of cloth diapers). But, if we're leaving the house, and also during the night, we'll use disposables (actually, even Zosia used disposables at night... mainly because we felt that we had to change cloth diapers, but one disposable usually made it through the whole night).

So, anyway, it looks like cloth diapers are back in our house... and I actually should probably start pulling everything out and getting it ready. For those of you who are interested about the details, I'll try to post about which diapers we use/ what process we use to make sure they stay clean in the next day or two (energy and time permitting)-- for the record, unlike what this picture suggests, there are absolutely no pins involved.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Master List

Somehow, when I was pregnant with Zosia, I never really got that "nesting instinct." We had a co-sleeper that was set up in our bedroom, had picked up a few onesies and sleepers at garage sales, and had been given cloth diapers by our friends, and I felt totally prepared. Ironically, this time around, when we actually have all the requisite baby "stuff," I'm getting this inexplicable energy to prepare a space in the home for the baby. I don't expect for baby #2 to sleep in her own room in a crib until she's at least 6 months old, but here we are, with a nursery all set up for her. I've been loving pulling out all of Zosia's baby stuff from boxes in the basement, washing it, folding it, and getting it ready for the baby. I've even actually *bought* a few things for the baby, which didn't happen with Zosia until she was like 1 or something.

I think that partly, I'm anticipating that between a toddler and a baby, I'm not going to have much time or energy during the first months to actually compensate for a lack of preparation beforehand... and where after Zosia was born we had tons of help with things like getting everything organized, caring for a newborn, this time I'm mainly caralling people and hands to help care for Zosia during those first months, which means that it would be nice if I actually took care of the rest of the stuff beforehand. And, on top of everything else, this time around we have this house of ours that seems to be an endless pit of projects waiting to happen.

So, in an attempt to actually "get ready" (probably much more so than is necessary), here is my master "to do list" for before the baby arrives... after a reality check this weekend, I decided that some of the tasks will be fine left undone, which I put in itallics:

Before Birth:
  • Purchase/assemble all things for home birth (see checklist) in pack and play
  • Prepare one week's worth of dinners/ breakfast/dessert:
  • baked ziti
  • enchilladas
  • chilli
  • macaroni and cheese
  • granola
  • peanut butter granola
  • one weeks worth of brown rice
  • whole wheat peanut butter cookies
  • chocolate chip cookies
  • waffles
  • quiche for birth
  • blueberry muffins
  • chicken curry
  • scallion pancakes
  • pizza dough
  • Empty baby's closet
  • Organize baby clothes
  • Pick up baby bedding
  • Buy white noise machines
  • Buy second level to phil and teds
  • Get stroller fixed
  • Paint baby's mirror
  • Buy birth present for Zosia

Around the house:

  • Organize basement
  • install bookshelves downstairs
  • Paint front door
  • Paint interior doors
  • Return stuff to Home Depot (drywall, molding)
  • Put up lattice
  • Plant garden
  • Plant planters
  • Assemble Ikea furniture
  • Assemble baby swing
  • Install window treatments in dining room/ basement
  • Plant grass seeds
  • Caulk the tub
  • Hang up mirror in baby's room
  • Install backup sump pump
  • Fix carpet downstairs
  • Put shelves in bookcase upstairs (put in books)
  • Remove phone jack from kitchen/ paint around outlets
  • Apply polyurethane to hand rails