Sunday, December 21

Bean days, and a quick update



This photo of Bean was taken at the library's sing-along last week.

It's still snowing out and has been since the middle of the day Friday, when I left work early as did most of Boston. There's about two feet on the ground now and it's still falling. Bean's first blizzard. My mom calls and says, "What global warming?" and I groan and tell her for the millionth time that it's about macro weather patterns, not micro.

Good weekend to cozy it up and finish making homemade treats and designs for holiday gifts that are going to be a week late. I underestimated how much time it would take to make them all myself and I overestimated my energy to do so. Can't tell you what they are just yet. I'm very much looking forward to having shorter work weeks the next two weeks.

Hubby is applying to grad schools this winter break and making acorn squash with mashed potatoes as I type. Ruby, our cat, has lost a little weight since her diet began. One of the two dogs--we can't figure out which--keeps peeing in the house. Bean is scooting around and we plan to child-proof the house over the holidays. My life is work Bean chores work chores work Bean chores work Bean and little else. My goal is to get my photo portfolio and website up and running this year, because the more I look at how I want to spend my life and what I want to do, the more I come back to my old haunt--photographer. Unfortunately, I have little time to spare beyond poopy gDiapers, divine baby kisses, washing dishes, work work work and dog piss. I will get there.

My crazy boss offered me another promotion this month that would have pushed me into the middle of an editorial career track and brought us out of food stamp-qualifying income brackets. I turned it down. After much thought, I opted to stay away from the rat race. I do need more money if I'm going to continue to support my family, but I don't want to spend my life working for something I care little about five days a week. I don't want to come home too exhausted to play with my kid(s). I want a slower life, not a faster one. I want to be proud of my life when it's said and done. Still, it's hard to look at our checkbook balance knowing what I just passed up, knowing that Hubby's school loans are more than a normal house is worth. I hope I made the right decision.

Thursday, December 18

Word

"My riches consist not in the extent of my possessions, but in the fewness of my wants." -J. Brotherton

Saturday, December 13

Support sustainable agriculture

I'm worried. I had--and still have--great hope with Obama being elected to president. His grassroots campaign was effective and his dislike of lobbyists admirable. But he has Michael Taylor on his transition team for the USDA, and Taylor spent many a year working for Monsanto, king of all seeds GMO.

Tell Obama you want sustainable agriculture: http://www.fooddemocracynow.org.

In November, a longitudinal study on the effects of GMOs was released and its news wasn't shocking--it was horrifying. According to Grist:

"On Nov. 11, Austria's Ministries for Agriculture and Health released the results of a long-term study of genetically modified organisms [GMOs]. A widely used strain of GM corn, they found, appears to decrease both birthrates and the size of offspring in mice -- and the problems seem to grow with each generation.

This is a troubling conclusion. U.S. farmers planted the first commercial GMO crops in 1996. Today, upwards of 90 percent of U.S. soy, and 60 percent of U.S. corn, come from GMO seeds. Those crops suffuse our food supply -- they provide the bulk of our cooking oil and sweetener, and feed the animals that feed us. By 2003, as much as 75 percent of processed food available in the United States contained GMO ingredients, according to an estimate cited by the USDA. GM corn and soy acreage have only expanded since then.

Of course, the reproductive function is complex and intimately linked to the body's other systems. If GMOs are affecting our ability to reproduce, then it seems likely they're affecting our health in other ways, too.

Yet the Austrian study dropped with a thud in the U.S. media. The New York Times didn't mention it; on The Washington Post website, it rated a few paragraphs in the midst of a daily health round up."

Tell Obama to support sustainable agriculture, not GMOs.

My thanks to Green Bean for pointing out this petition.

Sunday, November 23

The recycling-bin lady

When my grandma moved out of the home she raised her six children in and into an apartment for the 55+ age group, she had a lot of downsizing to do. She donated many of her clothes, years worth of kitchen supplies, and even her beloved sewing machine. Some of her children took old furniture and helped her move in. An organizational fiend, she put labels on everything and categorized all her possessions. It drove my own disorganized mother nuts, but it was certainly an admirable trait for a woman who pretty much single-handedly raised five boys and a girl all in very close age ranges. A needed trait, you might say.

So when my grandma arrived at her new place and set out her (labeled) recycling bin next to her trash can, she was astonished to discover her apartment complex--which had more than 100 units--didn't have recycling. "No recycling!" she exclaimed to my mother over the phone. "We'll see about that!" To a woman who weathered through the Great Depression, who handed out labeled cups at family reunions and instructed all of her grandchildren to use just one cup the whole week, who saved food scraps to pour into soups and stews ... to this woman who reused all of her aluminum foil until it crumbled apart in your hand, who scrimped and saved, who sewed and mended day and night, who made all of her children's clothes by hand--she could not comprehend the idea of not recycling. And she did something about it.

Circulating a petition among all of her new neighbors, my grandma garnered enough signatures to raise management's eyebrows and cave in. In her mid-80s, she still had the power to persuade and the will to act on her values and beliefs. Grandma became known as the recycling-bin lady.

My grandma died Thursday morning at a hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. She was 87 years old. And today, I walked by a full recycling bin in the lobby of her apartment building.

Wednesday, November 12

Put your money where your mouth is

This is my contribution to the APLS Carnival; this month's theme is "Buying Local."

When I was seven years old, I discovered that my friends received weekly allocations of money from their parents—for free—and this money could be traded for candy. They called it an “allowance.” I immediately went home and asked for one.

“Sure,” my dad, who worked in the economic sector, said.

I grinned.

“But first you have to tell me the name of each coin,” he announced, and spread out four different coins.

I frowned, and began studying. Penny, nickel, dime, quarter. Penny, nickel, dime, quarter. I recited their names over and over. Oh candy, you will be mine! I studied them forever (probably about 10 minutes) and declared myself ready for the quiz.

“Penny, nickel, dime, quarter!” I shrieked proudly as my dad produced each coin in turn.

“Great job,” he replied and ruffled my hair. “Now do it again,” he said, and shuffled the coin order. Crap.

I took that quiz a good five times before I had those coins down and an allowance was mine—all 41 cents of it. Penny, nickel, dime, quarter. After doling out the first installment, my dad tried to explain how money worked. “See this nickel? You won’t care if you have two nickels or a dime; they’re both 10 cents,” he explained patiently.

“But Dad, I would care,” I declared stubbornly.

“But they’re both the same amount,” he replied.

“I would still care,” I said, defending my nickel.

Flash forward more than two decades. My dad is an aging Republican who still works in the economic sector and I am his only child that was “accidentally swapped at the hospital.” The black sheep, if you like. My dad buys the cheapest tropical fruit at Wal-Mart without a second thought; I shop organic at my local farmers’ market. My dad picks up a bottle of Pert; I try making my own baking soda concoction in a recycled bottle. My dad laughs in surprise when I refuse to buy something made in China. “What do you have against the Chinese?” he asks.

“Nothing. I’m sure they’re perfectly nice workers,” I reply, thinking here we go again.

“Then why not buy their stuff?” he asks, bewildered. It is, after all, the cheapest choice, and I don’t exactly have cash coming out of my ears.

“Cuz I’d rather use my money to support small businesses around here, that’s why,” I said.

He scratches his head and puts his teacher voice on. “But honey, there’s nothing different between buying from a corporation and buying from a ma-and-pop store. The corporation has more workers to pay,” he explains, “so they need your money just as much.”

“The corporation takes my money and puts in the head honcho’s wallet. The small business uses it around town and it helps them stay in business with all the corporations in town trying to take over,” I explain.

“Why does it matter which town your money goes to?” he asks, still bewildered.

“Because I care,” I reply with a smile, and he ruffles my hair.

I still care … and my dad’s still cheap.

Sunday, November 9

Hope and a fist

I boarded the subway in my usual crazy rush-hour manner: breastpump jet pack on the back, lunch bag and work files in a shoulder bag, and a big ol' baby girl in my front carrier. I hobbled over to the last remaining empty seat and plucked down in it. Only you can't really pluck with this get-up; it's more like you teeter on the edge of the seat and hold on tight to said baby.

Across the row, there was a large man listening to headphones. Well, I don't know if he was actually large--he was one of those men that take up all the room they want regardless of how crowded the train is. The kind of fellow T passenger I despise. With a vengeance. This particular one was lazily taking up three seats in a standing-room only train.

When the train finally started moving, it stops suddenly again and announced there was traffic ahead. I groaned silently. It was Election Day and the polls closed in less than two hours. I'm quite sure many of these civic-minded individuals were hoping to make it to the polls after work, and I was worried they wouldn't now. Thankfully, I cast my vote prior to work--and walked uphill one mile to get there.

As always, the crowd maintained their code of silent so that when anyone does actually take it upon him/herself to speak, everyone listens. Or at least I do. And breaking the silence after several minutes was the lazy seat-taker-upper. He reached out across the two seats he was taking up and handed the young white guy with a nice watch a stick of gum. "Obama," he said, nodding to the guy's pin, and they both grinned. I couldn't help but grin as well--the pride in this black man's voice was too much, even if he did take up a trillion seats and cause other passengers to sway against each other in locomotion. They did a little fist-to-fist handshake and returned inward, while the train finally started moving again. Good thing, too: Bean was getting restless.

At the next stop, a middle-aged white woman with unruly curls popping out of an Obama baseball cap stepped onto the train and took a seat next to the seat-taker-upper. He grinned again, got another stick of gum out from his bag, and repeated, "Obama." She nodded eagerly and clumsily at once, and accepted her token gift. He reached over with his fist, ready to repeat his gesture, and she fumbled around it, acting as if he meant to drop another gum in her hand. She held hers palm-up underneath his fist for an awkward second before he realized she had no idea what he was doing. He reached out and made her hand into a fist, which she interpreted as possibly dangerous in her awkward, submissive sort of way. They clumsily clunked fists and seconds later, he stood up and got off the train. "Obama," he said quietly, full of pride.

Is this the improved race relations I've heard so much about? The world commends us on this symbolic election, and having the first African-American U.S. president is certainly nothing to take lightly. How many more generations will endure awkward cultural exchanges before it becomes commonplace? Before a fist is a recognized gesture of friendship?

Good for this woman; she was scared to try but try she did. And she learned.

Monday, November 3

Tomorrow

VotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevoteVotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevotevote ... and for those of you living in Massachusetts, vote NO on Question 1!

Wednesday, October 29

Love is blind

Since love has gotten political, perhaps we should take the time to see it from the other side.

Monday, October 27

Word

"Human manners are wildly inconsistent; plenty of people before me have said so. But this one takes the cake: the manner in which we're allowed to steal from future generations, while commanding them not to do that to us, and rolling our eyes at anyone who is tediously PC enough to point this out. The conspicuous consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as a spiritual error, or even bad manners." -Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Saturday, October 25

The wheels on the bus


Bean is quite comfortable making long streams of noises. She just keeps going, like the literary version of an Energizer Bunny. We should all be so un-self-conscious. On the bus ride home yesterday, she let out a constant babble. I think it lasted the whole bus ride--about 20 minutes long. You wouldn't believe the number of pissed-off looks I got. My baby's talking, what do you want? I felt like saying to one guy. To another: I hope you have a quiet evening! Despite my defensiveness, I did feel guilty that she was interrupting the unwritten code of bus silence. More than that, I felt guilty for feeling guilty. Why should I care if people are annoyed? This is a beautiful thing--she's learning how to talk! Why do I care? Why? But I do.

Work can be entertaining: I got this site from a co-worker yesterday. Absolutely hysterical!

Saturday, October 18

Interesting

An article on youth and creativity: are the two really as entwined as we assume?

Holiday swap

I'm starting to think my life exists in bullet points.

"In watermelon sugar, the deeds were done and done again, as my life is done in watermelon sugar." -Richard Brautigan

I finished reading Wake Up and Smell the Planet, Grist's guide to being green. I read it on the bus on the way to work each time I didn't have Bean with me. (My husband and I usually switch off caring for her and he often works or has class at night, which means Bean comes to pick me up at work with her daddy.) I found most of the advice to be at an eco-intro level, though I did pick up a few facts I didn't know before. Notably, avoid bath products with "PEG," "polyethylene," "polyethylene glycol," "polyoxyethylene," "-eth-," or "-oxynol-" because they come with a carcinogenic byproduct called 1,4-Dioxane. Overall, the book was a fun, quick read and the kind of stocking stuffer gift for folks who are interested but don't know where to start on being more eco-friendly.

Speaking of the holidays, my family and I are at a standstill. My sister and I usually organize a sort of adult Secret Santa, with the maximum gift amount being $30. All the kids (under age 5 currently) get gifts from everyone. This year, though, several complaints have been made and the holidays need an overhaul. First, one sister wants a more predictable system, so she can shop for her person all year long. Another wants to do it by families--we keep multiplying, and the expense and time it takes to expend it are taxing.

I would like to see more holiday themes that involve less material items. As my dad says, "I have enough toys." This is true for most (though not all) of my family members. I just feel ridiculous paying $30 for some hair salon gift certificate to my sister-in-law when she rides around in a Mercedes without a monetary care in the world, while I'm earning WIC food stamps and hoping my baby doesn't poop much today so we can save 40 cents on a diaper liner. I don't like contributing to her evil consumption nor can I keep affording to pay for it. I thought we could do a charity holiday (everyone picks their favorite charity and we donate time or money to that person's charity). This would be especially timely this year with the economic downturn (read: recession) hitting nonprofits hard. Or we could do a homemade holiday: baked goods, art, music, wherever your talents lay. Or a Yankee swap: you don't want this, give it to them. Anybody have other ideas?

The problem is, my family has too many toys--but they want more toys. They don't realize they have too many toys. They see other people with even more toys and they want that, too. But they don't need toys anymore. How do I say all this with a gift?

Thursday, October 16

I had to laugh

Saw a great bumper sticker the other day:

At least we're winning the war on the environment

Thursday, October 2

Bean time

What to blog about

I often find myself thinking, "That would be a great post!" to random things that happen in my life. Problem is, 98% of the time, I never get around to writing about it. Or I sit down and completely forget everything that I wanted to blog about. So, if memory serves me half-assed, here are a few things from this week I've wanted to write about:

*Walking to the train from work, I came across a man with an umbrella larger than a Smart Car. No joke, the umbrella took up more than the entire width of the sidewalk. I've never seen such large umbrellas as they have in Boston, but this one wins the cake. I think it goes along with this whole self-important vibe they have going on up here. Man, I wish I had my camera for the Smart Car umbrella.

*Bean has recently discovered she can put things in her mouth besides my nipples. This has resulted in a furious cleaning frenzy, dog groomings, and sheer panic/worry ... and she can't even crawl yet.

*My mom sent me a great birthday gift last week: copious amounts of Seventh Generation toilet paper and Tom's of Maine toothpaste. I honestly love getting gifts I can use, that I need. I remember one of my more radical environmentalist friends, Corey, received a similar package from his mom for a past birthday and he was bummed. I couldn't imagine why. I guess I see gifts differently than others.

*Pumping breastmilk is my third full-time job.

*It's hard to imagine it has been a year since I found out I was pregnant with Bean. She is four months old today. Everyone says "they grow so quickly" that it has become such a cliche--but it is so true. Is there truth in repetition? The Republican party certainly thinks so.

*Grateful Farm, my favorite organic stall at the farmers market, has been selling a number of heirloom eggplant varieties, and I finally bought one last week. I hate eggplant, normally, but we cooked this one up with crushed tomatoes, purple bell peppers (did you know those turn white when cooked? Weird!), and onions. Delicious! Eggplant is my new friend. And I finally had the pivotal farmers market experience that everyone raves about: I had a conversation, and made friends, with two of the workers there. We talked about okra, and it was beautiful! :)

*I registered to vote yesterday. Rather, I re-registered. Apparently the RMV didn't register me like they told me they would. Anyway, I took Bean and I felt like I was introducing her to civic duty. Only almost 18 years before she can vote ...

Bean is taking a nap now, so I must get back to getting everything done that must be done without her.

Sunday, September 28

Word

"If my explorations of the food chain have taught me anything, it's that it is a food chain, and all the links in it are in fact linked: the health of the soil to the health of the plants and animals we eat to the health of the eater, in body as well as mind. ... Food consists not just in piles of chemicals; it also comprises a set of social and ecological relationships, reaching back to the land and outward to other people." -Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food

Sunday, September 21

Ruby's reduction diet


My cat is on a diet.

Well, kind of. We never really realized that she was getting bigger and bigger by the year until my brother pointed it out on a recent trip up here. It's one of those things--when you see them every day, you can't get outside the proverbial fishbowl and see how they've changed. Sort of like presidents. I'm always shocked when they show a picture of Bill Clinton or Bush or whomever when they first came to office. They invariably look so much thinner and younger than they do now. So when Brother mentioned how fat Ruby was getting, we dug out the old photos. He was right. She's huge.

For the eight years she has been with me, she has had a bowl of food at all times. In the early years, she was disciplined. She ate only enough to curb her appetite, and then off she'd go, tracking bugs or finding string or tackling the dogs. Not anymore. I leave her food out all day, and she eats all day. Then sleeps. Being an older cat, she doesn't play as much as she used to. She's also not too keen on change.

I decided the best solution to easing off some of the excess weight would be to just feed her less. Same food, just less of it. (Which reminds me, I'm now reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I think I was on the library waitlist forever. OK, back to the cat.) Figuring changing her brand would be too much for the picky adorable thing that she is, I just reduced the amount I thought she was eating each day. This means giving her breakfast and dinner with the dogs, which makes mealtime very active in our household.

She eats regular old cat food, not vegetarian/vegan varieties. As much as I hate giving my money to the meat industry, I'm not convinced that a vegetarian/vegan diet is healthy for an animal that is almost entirely a carnivore in the wild.

Ruby hasn't lost any weight yet (maybe I'm giving her too much? 2/3 cup, 1/3 at each meal?), but she has taken to following me around for hours before breakfast and dinner. I think I've tripped over her more in the last month than I have in years. She is more cuddly and playful now, too. Perhaps I should have been doing this all along.

Wednesday, September 3

Enjoying the smaller moments


To answer BB's question: yes, I'm still keeping with the four-day work week, two of which are from home. And I'm taking my day off very seriously.

First, we went to the library and got seven more books, including some by bell hooks. I never knew she wrote children's books until I had Bean. Thank goodness she does.

We then took a long mid-day nap together, the windows wide open and the breeze seeming to keep us drowsy longer. Every now and again, she would smile in her sleep, her eyes crinkling briefly in the sunlight. There is no greater happiness.

In the afternoon, we moseyed on over to the local farmers' market, where we spent just $11 for a bounty of vegetables and fruit. I've read that through breastfeeding, babies develop likes and dislikes for certain tastes. Since vegetables are often harder for children to enjoy, I've made it my mission to ingest as many varieties of vegetables and fruits as I can get my hands on. Just this morning, I ate a grapefruit for Bean, even though I hate grapefruit. At the farmers market, I bought some garden peaches, tomatoes, honeycrisp apples (never had that variety), cucumbers, purple peppers (never had), spaghetti squash (haven't had in a long time), and sunjewel melon (never had). Everything, save the apples, was organic.

It is these small moments that I treasure. The relaxing day overrides my guilt of being nonproductive. It's not a guilt that's justified, it's just American and it's real.

Sunday, August 31

Word

"In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper." -Barack Obama [emphasis mine]

Wednesday, August 27

Tomorrow

Yesterday was spent luxuriously: a family walk around the forest preserve, stamping Bean's tiny fingerprints and footprints into a memory book, shampooing her hair in the tub together.

Today will be finishing all those last-minute chores before more family visits this weekend, soaking up baby smiles and coos, feasting on homemade food, plowing through a to-do list that will likely not be touched for months to come, washing nappies, and most likely crying at the possibility of missing precious Bean moments.

Tomorrow will be hard: I go back to work.

Saturday, August 23

Calling all Houston-ers: please donate blood platelets

My friend Alice's friend Katie has an aggressive form of Hodgkin's Lymphoma and needs your help. If you are near the Houston area, please consider donating your blood platelets. If not, please consider posting the following information on your own blog or forwarding it in an email.

Please donate! Kathryn Meacham, Patient ID: 754592

Friends & Family,

We are writing because we hope you can help secure or donate blood platelets in the Houston area for our sister/cousin Kathryn (Katie) Meacham. Katie is presently undergoing treatment at MD Anderson for a very aggressive strain of Hodgkin's Lymphoma!!!

Kathryn (Katie) Meacham is 25 years old and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in April 2008. Katie underwent 3 months of unsuccessful chemo in New York. At that point, Katie and her mom made the difficult decision to move to Houston to undergo treatment at MD Anderson, which is known to have the best treatment available. Her current treatment plan includes a very aggressive chemo followed by a stem cell transplant.

When Katie has her stem cell transplant (in the next 2-3 weeks), she will be in great need of frequent, single donor platelets transfusions. Due to past negative reactions to multi-donor transfusions, single donor platelets are particularly important to Katie and often unavailable at the moment patients need them. We are in desperate need of finding people in the Houston area to give platelet donations for Katie. The more people who donate on her behalf, the higher on the priority list Katie gets. Blood type does NOT matter, the number of people donating does. We cannot overstate the importance of platelet transfusions to her treatment.

If you know anyone in the Houston area, please forward this message on to them and ask them to forward to everyone they know. We need platelet donors and words cannot sufficiently express our gratitude for your assistance and donations!

If you are interested in donating please call/email Lori or Wendy. We are trying to create a list of potential donors so we can contact people once the need arises. Unfortunately platelets have a short shelf life. With this in mind, please do not donate until we coordinate the donation with you to ensure it best helps Katie in her treatment. When you call or email us, please let us know your blood type (if you know it) and the best way to reach you.

Lori Rosen (Katie's sister)
Cell: 773-220-0418
Work: 312-277-1655
Email: lrosen99@gmail.com

Wendy Clarfeld (Katie's cousin)
Cell: 206-375-2655
Email: wlclarfeld@gmail.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KATIE PLEASE CHECK OUT KATIE'S KANCER BLOG AT http://www.kancerclub.com/


Call or email us with any questions and thank you for your support!!


Much thanks and love,

Lori Rosen and Wendy Clarfeld

Thursday, August 21

My mom's gift


My mom and brother came up for a visit two weeks ago, and one day while she was in town, she came over with this beautiful hibiscus as a surprise. It's certainly not a local plant, but she tried. We haven't been getting enough sun for it to thrive, but we certainly have been getting enough rain. Apparently it hasn't rained for four days now downtown, which is the first time that's happened since June 7 this year. (You can even see rain drops on the petals: that's my proof.)

Monday, August 18

Friday, August 15

We're officially sans automobile!

And it feels so good!

A. came by yesterday and gave us a half month's rent for our '97 sedan. We had to make up a bill of sale (MA's lemon law applies to private owners, too) and sign over the title and it was done. Finally! As I mentioned in an earlier post, we haven't driven it in more than a year and it was just sitting there in the driveway. A. hasn't driven off with it yet (it needs a new battery), but I think we should make a cake when he does.

It feels great. I always felt like owning and driving the car was a weight over my shoulders. It conflicted with my values, and now that I live somewhere that's not a cartropolis, I can get around sans auto. Sure, it takes a little longer to get there via mass transit and I can't sing at the top of my lungs with the windows rolled down, but it eases my guilt a bit.

Of course, we probably won't stay here forever. If we do move where there isn't mass transit, I'll look into a scooter, electric bike, Zip Car, or maybe a Smart Car. Hopefully by that point, cities will be trying to emulate Curitiba's public transportation systems and its other urban planning wonders, so we can all get around on mass transit.

For now, we're looking to buy a used bike. Preferably with a child seat for Bean (when she's older, of course). Any recommendations?

Friday, August 8

Strawberries and basil, oh my




My strawberry and basil plants are thriving, I'm pleased to say. I have to clip off the flowers from the basil every few weeks or so, but other than that, they have been just water-and-go plants. Sadly, I've only tasted one strawberry, which was sweet and a little mushy. The birds get to them before I can. I meant to put up netting, like several of you suggested, because we have a ton of different birds in this area. But then Bean was born a week later, and I just haven't gotten to it. Looks like that plant went to the birds! Our neighbors keep wondering why the birds aren't at their feeders anymore--maybe because next door they can enjoy the luxurious accommodations of bird feed and ripe strawberries!

Thursday, July 31

Labor, She Roared

Having been down the labor and delivery road for the first time two months ago, I'm still grappling with the fact that the majority of well-wishers ignored or shied away from hearing about my experience. All of the attention was on the baby, and of course that should be the main focus, but having gone through such an intense experience, it should be shared and celebrated.

When someone did ask, they generally were competitive about it. "How long were you in labor?" "14 hours." "Oh, that's not bad. I was in labor for 22, and then I had to have C-section ..." etc. I felt no cooperative, sharing moment between women who asked about my labor, and with many, many women going through it at least once in their lives, it should be a source of connection, not competition. It should be a source of enlightenment for those who have not given birth. It should be shared.

So here's your challenge: tell a labor story. Yours, your mom's, your best friend's. Ask them what it was like, how they felt. What surprised them? How scared were they? Did many people ask their labor story? Let's share these stories because they deserved to be told. Moms deserve to be honored. Labor, She Roared.

Post a comment when you've blogged about so I can add a link to your story. If you don't have a blog, post your story in the comments. And if you're just curious and have questions about labor, let 'em rip. Labor shouldn't be a secret, and this is my effort to honor the experience.

Electronic Goose's story

Friday, July 25

Word

"When Carleton was three months old, Henry had realized that they'd misunderstood something. Babies weren't babies, they were land mines, bear traps, wasp nests. They were a noise, which was sometimes not even a noise, but merely a listening for a noise; they were a damp, chalky smell; they were the heaving, jerky, sticky manifestation of not-sleep." -Kelly Link in her amusing short story, "Stone Animals"

Bean days

Wednesday, July 23

Walk in the park



Bean and I went for a walk in Menotomy Park this morning. It's a fantastic wooded area with a lake where children play and make forts from fallen tree branches, adults hike, and dogs run free. I'm so glad we have this place, and it's only a 15 minute walk from our apartment. More cities need planning like this, incorporating green play space with compact mixed-use developments.

We found out I was pregnant within two weeks of my leaving a job, starting a new job, moving out of an apartment, and moving into a new one. That weekend, we took a walk through Menotomy Park for the first time and Hubby snapped the above picture. It feels like I'm completing the circle now when I take Bean through there. She loves staring up at the trees. I have a feeling if this fascination of hers with trees continues into her childhood, people will think I forced it on her.

No mas car?

We might finally be getting rid of our car.

It has been sitting, just sitting, in the parking lot for more than a year now. We haven't touched it: it's been wonderful. We purposely chose to live near (almost in) the city, and pay higher rent as a result, so we could use public transportation. And now, without any action on our part, our landlord's friend is interested in buying it ... only he won't pick it up.

He came by right when Bean was born to look the Pontiac over, and in the two weeks that followed, he test drove it and negotiated the price with Hubby (technically it's his car, since he owned it before we even met). They agreed on a price, and now we're waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for him to pay up and drive off. I can't wait anymore. I've wanted to get rid of that car for longer than we stopped driving it. It's not even worth much, it's just the presence that bothers me.

Speaking of public transportation ...

I took the bus and subway at least four times each weekday for the duration of my pregnancy. And on the weekends, I often took mass transit even more frequently. Other than my feet, it's the principal way I got around. Guess how many people offered me their seat as my belly expanded and my feet swelled up? Just guess.

Four. No joke. These people in Boston are unbelievable. Unbelievable. I wouldn't think of not standing up for a pregnant woman. In fact, while pregnant, there were several times when I would stand up for a more pregnant woman--and meanwhile, the other passengers would just watch us. I particularly hated it when the riders would look at me and quickly look away. Like you don't have to stand up if you pretend I'm not there.

Other than the rude riders, I'm so relieved to solely be using mass transit, and finally (hopefully!) getting rid of this car. It makes me feel like I'm living my values, rather than just believing them.

Tuesday, July 22

Greening update

I wanted to stop using paper towels and start composting; those were my goals right before Bean was born. I haven't accomplished the composting at all--finding plastic containers and a drill are beyond my abilities right now--but we have reduced our paper towel consumption considerably.

We took the first step by using a hand towel for napkins instead of paper towels. The habit that is hardest for me to break is reaching for a rag instead of a paper towel when I'm cleaning. Habits, really, are at the core of change. People just get comfortable in their routines and habits and they forget to question. They forget, sometimes, to change, or perhaps how to change.

My strawberry and basil plants are flourishing; I keep meaning to take and post a picture of them.

I did manage to read two books in June for Green Bean's reading challenge. I hope to post my reviews before the summer's over! One more item on my Hope-To-Do list.

Bean's crying now while Hubby makes tacos. I better go to the rescue.

Word

"You cannot remember the weight of your son, nestled for the first time on your belly, his umbilical cord still pulsing, or the way his newborn head smelled like something that belonged to you. You can't recall, because now there is only this: when you press your nose into his blond hair, your boy smells of cut grass and shampoo and vanilla cookies. He squirms from your arms and runs naked across the lawn toward the hose. He wrestles with the spigot, and water splashes his knees. You can't help staring at his little body, so lithe and agile, frog belly floating out in front. You watch him squat to inspect a June bug and then race toward the garden. When he flops down on the grassy path, where wildflowers flutter like prayer flags, you lie down next to him and feel the earth spin. You cannot remember giving birth now."
-"The Things You Forget" by Christina Rosalie Sbarro, from The Sun's August issue

Thursday, July 3

A doctor or a midwife?

SuzyQ has patiently waited for a response to a question she raised last month: why a midwife?

I knew from the get-go that I wanted a drug-free ("natural," though some are offended by that term) delivery. The stereotypical busy, uninterested OB/GYN in a sterile white room filled with beeping machines just didn't say comfortable to me, and I knew that would be essential for relaxation. Certainly all OB/GYNs don't devalue and depersonalize the mother and her partner, but they are all medical trained and therefore more apt to prescribe medicine as the be-all, cure-all; to be preoccupied with other patients; to deliver in a hospital setting; and to order a C-section. I needed someone that said warmth, compassion, caring, understanding ... I needed someone who would be there for the whole process, not just the end of the pushing and periodic check-ups. I wanted a warm, dimly lit environment where I could play my own relaxing music (ocean waves for Bean) and it was important to not have medical equipment in the background (research has shown the mere visual or auditory suggestion of medical equipment or intervention/drugs makes for a dramatic increase in the use of it during labor).

I knew my options of midwives varied: they range from almost no scholarly background to specialized nurses or certified nurse practitioners (CNPs), which is what I selected. I wanted to avoid the hospital (too impersonal, sterile, close to medical equipment ...) but I didn't want to deliver at home (it's an apartment, I have three pets, and it's my first child so I didn't feel comfortable enough being that far away from medical help if I needed it). I looked online a bit and discovered the lucky coincidence that I live near a birthing center in Cambridge. The birthing center is an old Victorian house with waterbirthing tubs in each bedroom and it's right across from the hospital in case you need emergency attention. Perfect option, since it was a midpoint between home and hospital.

My insurance covered midwives (most do; I think midwives are generally cheaper than doctors anyway), so I picked up the phone, took a tour, meet the midwives on staff, and started going to monthly check-ups. My midwife gave me all kinds of great advice (yoga poses, Kegels, breathing, etc.) and made me feel like a human being. Not a take-a-number-have-a-seat type of setting.

If I had to do it again, I would have a midwife again and even consider a home birth. The most comfortable part of my labor experience was the time I was at home -- by far. I was in almost no pain for those eight hours and I was completely relaxed (which makes the cervix dilated go much quicker as well).

Bean's crying; gotta run. Hubby has off -- happy Fourth, everyone! Celebrate one of the few nonmaterial holidays left! -- and is making blueberry pancakes. We went for a walk in the rain earlier this morning. Love having him and baby home together.

Thanks for being patient, SuzyQ! :0)

Tuesday, July 1

It's an Aria world

Fair warning: this will be short and sweet, because she's starting to do the fussy-sleeping dance on my chest.

Aria was born on June 2 in the early afternoon. I was in labor about 14 hours, most of which was spent at home, pacing my hall. When I arrived at the birthing center, I was already 8 cm dilated, and they were astounished at how calm I seemed. I felt calm, and I felt drawn inward ... I probably appeared lethargic, but I was inside myself, if that makes sense. (I might not be making sense. I'm averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night--and not in a row.)

The midwife drew water for the birthing tub, and I labored in there for about an hour or two. Time meant nothing to me; my husband's giving me the estimates now. It was nice to be in the water, but I didn't like my position in there and the pillow they'd given me to support my head was super annoying. The midwife broke my water in the tub, and the pain really began then.

I moved to the bed shortly after she broke my water, and she discovered a "second bag," (a second bag of water or the remainder of the first?) which when broken, out came meconium (a sign of fetal distress) and in I went to the hospital. They transferred me on a stretcher and I remember feeling the sun hit my toes and wondering if the wind would sweep up and reveal my naked body to the passing cars.

Once in the hospital, I was pushing for about two hours before Aria was born. When she came out, they tell me, she had one hand raised up by her forehead, like a flying Superman come to save the day. (To this day, she strikes that pose in her deepest sleep.) My first glimpse of her was blurry, as the emergency pediatricans whisked her away and I didn't have my glasses on. My first real look at her was in my smiling husband's arms. She was, and is, absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. Despite the show of meconium, she was perfectly fine, and somehow I knew she would be.

I was proud of myself for not using any drugs, not even the Motrin they prescribed for the afterbirth pains and cramps. I was surprised by how few people were interested in hearing the labor story (the focus is really entirely on the baby, but it feels like giving birth is such an intense experience that some attention should be paid to that experience, a tribute somehow ...) or even asked how I was. I was also surprised at how long and not fun the physical recovery was ... it's been four weeks now, and the bleeding has just now subsided. I wasn't prepared for the afterwards, I guess.

I didn't end up using any HypnoBirthing techniques, just their philosophy: this is natural and you need to let go of control and trust your body and your baby to get through this process. The fear of the pain of giving birth is, I think, more than the actuality of it. Once you eliminate the fear--or at least cut it down to size-- you are left with an incredibly intense, but definitely do-able, experience.

I call Aria "Bean." It's strange; she and Fetus are two different beings to me, not really connected. I had been worried I would call her Fetus since we had been using that name for so long, but no. I do miss Fetus though, those tiny kicks and peaceful moments in the morning listening to the birds, imagining, sensing, just being. I can't miss Fetus for too long, though: Bean wakes me out of that fog.

Breastfeeding, on a side note, is much harder to master than it appears. I'm determined and it will get better, but my nipples were pretty upset with me for a few weeks there.

Thank you all for your good thoughts and wishes. I probably won't be blogging much this summer, but I am going to try to keep up with reading your blogs.

Thursday, May 29

One week ... or two, or three, or ...

I'm officially one week from my due date today. The last few days I've felt increased tightening and pressure, which has made me excited and giddy. Who knows, though, when Fetus will really arrive. Thankfully, at my birthing center, the midwives will give you up until 42 weeks before they start (adamantly) suggesting medical induction. (Technically speaking, a human pregnancy's due date is anywhere between 38 and 42 weeks; after 42 weeks, the ability of the placenta to support the baby's life diminishes and, accordingly, the likelihood of a stillbirth increases slightly.)

I'm shocked at how few mothers don't know a pregnancy is 10 months. Others, I don't blame--I didn't know, either, and why would we, what with the media making such a fuss over 9 months? But women who have gone through the experience? Shouldn't they know any better?

I made the mistake of sending out an email to family and close friends with the subject "9 months and counting," and in-law G-ma B. instantly emailed me and all of her friends that I've never met to say I'm having a baby any day now. I didn't know how to break it to her, a woman who has had five children, that a full gestational term is 40 weeks or 10 months. Not nine. So I just let it go ... only now I'm being bombarded by emails asking if Fetus has arrived yet.

Speaking of Fetus, my G-ma B., who is an extremely devout Catholic, emailed me and said: "I want to let you know that I'm praying for the baby (not fetus)." While I understand that she's coming from the perspective of her religious beliefs, it was still something of a smack in the face. I call our baby Fetus, so you kind of told me that the most powerful action that you believe in (praying) will not be conferred upon my baby, at least not in my terms. This is also the same G-ma that wrote me a 3-page letter on how I need to adhere blindly to "the doctor's" every whim because "it's not about you anymore, Goose." Was it ever?

I have read that many mothers are sick and tired of the pregnancy at the end and "just want it out." I don't feel this way at all. I feel curious, certainly, but patient. I will miss Fetus being wrapped inside me, kicking every evening around 10 pm, making me laugh with his/her weird waving movements, rubbing my belly and knowing s/he is safe and secure ... At the same time, I'm excited to meet her/him. I can't for the life of me imagine what Fetus will look like or be like.

I picked up my library copy of Last Child in the Woods and have started reading already for Green Bean's green reading challenge, though tonight I think I'll take a long walk with the dogs instead. It's gorgeous weather today, blue jays surrounding my bird feeder and two new flowers bloomed from my strawberry plant.

Monday, May 26

Planted



As promised, my beautiful, tiny alpine strawberry plant and basil plant ... thank you all for your advice for these two. I'm hoping for some netting to keep the birds out off Freecycle ... because of course we planted the strawberry plant right next to two bird feeders. Smart, huh?

Sunday, May 25

Word

"The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?" -Pablo Casals

Sunday Morning Breakfast Club


I dread the week these club meetings end ...

Last week, Hubby made cinnamon rolls! I've been avoiding sugar more than usual during this pregnancy, but this past month I've been craving it. You can find the recipe here. Our dough didn't rise (the milk was probably too hot and the yeast didn't appreciate that) and we didn't make the icing (that was pushing the sugar limit a little too far), but they were still delicious.

Friday, May 23

Handmade fair in Union Square

I hope I can get to this: Boston Handmade Marketplace in Union Square (Somerville) on June 28. Fetus, however, may have other plans for me.

Reuse, redonate

Black beans are simmering on the stove and the windows throughout our apartment are wide open -- even the fire escape door that kitty cat loves to climb and leave rips in the wire mesh is open. There's a storm coming and I absolutely love the chilly wind that cuts through right beforehand, the silence as all the creatures look for cover. Meanwhile, our new strawberry plant looks ready to topple over and poor kitty has been confined to the bedroom lest her claws carve paths for bugs in the screen door (not to mention the rent deposit).

Work is threatening to throw away more crap, so this week I've come home with an almost new white kitchen table (yea! We have a table now, after two painful trips back and forth on the T!); two freezer bags filled with bagels ("It's a long weekend; let's just toss 'em." Umm, hello, freezer anyone? Homeless people downtown? Hungry, pregnant, underpaid staff member?); an mp3 player I will probably try to sell (they were going to throw it out because "everybody already has one," only I don't but I don't need one); two muffins; and an almost new bookcase and 12 planters that I have yet to pick up. All this from a nonprofit that prides itself on being green. No joke there. I actually believed it ... my first week.

I've finally broken down and joined Freecycle at Momma Val's suggestion. Actually, I've wanted to join for years but I never did because ... well, because I don't want another account. I know, I know, it's a dumb reason and I could have been giving all those Goodwill donations away for free and perhaps finding something I needed myself in the process but I just hate all the email accounts and logins and passwords and mess that I have to check. I hate composing this electronic self, and then having to check on it constantly. It's kind of like buying junk to make your life easier, only then you have to take care of the junk and it becomes your life and it's not so easy anymore. In fact, it's harder.

But I broke down and joined up with Yahoo and now I'm a full-fledged Freecycle member. I've only been a member for two days now and I've already given away two moving boxes filled with books in great condition (leftover from our yard sale) and six grocery bags filled with moving materials (mostly stiff tissue paper and bubble wrap). It feels great! I'm still sick over another account to check up on, but it's well worth it. I'm hoping to find a desk chair (we use a makeshift sort of bench right now that has no back support and my back is killing me!) and perhaps some chairs to go with our new kitchen table, courtesy of my "green" workplace. I'm hoping to give away some stuff from my work, too, like the bookcase since I already have a bookcase.

Library emailed and my two reserved books are in: Affluenza and Last Child in the Woods. Yea! I wonder if I'll finish them before Fetus arrives.

This week's "small" goal: start eliminating paper towels. It's been much easier to do than I imagined (my fear was our lack of personal washer/dryer would make this hard to handle) ... and I can't believe I didn't think of it before! I always bought recycled, non-bleached paper towels, but for some reason it didn't occur to me to not buy at all. <-- which is exactly the problem, and we can solve this!

Next "small" goal: create a vermicomposting bin that kitty will leave be.

Quesadillas are ready! Yum ...

Thursday, May 22

Yard sale ergo green thumb

In my quest to simplify our lives, we held a yard sale last weekend.

It was the first time we'd ever had a yard sale and it went fairly well. Before, we had always just donated items to Goodwill or whomever. This time, it was actually easier to hold the sale because we didn't have a way to easily transport all the boxes to a donation center. If we took it all on the bus, it would be many trips and a bit much for me to carry at this point in my pregnancy. Also, with my unpaid maternity leave coming up, we could use a little extra cash.

Note to other newbie yard sellers: it takes much longer to set up than you'd think!

I didn't price anything, and mostly negotiated fair prices with the people who shopped. There were a few who argued to the point where I was annoyed with them, but most people were nice and thought my prices were reasonable.

One of the annoying customers kept trying to convince me I had said something I didn't.

"How much for the CDs?" he asked, flexing his muscles in a ripped-sleeved purple tee and thumbing through my collection of old-school alternative music like the Meat Puppets and Belly.

"Two bucks each," I replied in my shaded lawnchair, borrowed from our landlord.

"Will you make a deal if I get a lot?"

"Sure," I said, smiling and covering my eyes from the sun.

A little later ... "OK, I have 40 CDs at a buck a piece. What kind of deal will you give me? $20 for all?"

"Um, no. $60 for all?" I replied, fidgeting a little and rubbing my very round belly.

And so it went. He ended up getting quite a good deal ... 40 CDs, 5 DVDs and a CD box set all for $50. But he was a jerk.

We ended up making $161.26, which is a great help. More than anything, though, I was thrilled to get rid of some clutter, knowing someone else will use it instead. I think we'll post some of the remaining items on Freecycle and donate the rest to our local center.

Since then, I've been considering what to use the money for. We do need to save most of it -- at least half -- but I thought since it's kind of "extra" money, maybe we could use some towards fun money. We almost never have any entertainment or fun money.

We decided Monday to buy two plants and begin our goal of growing some of our own food. Visiting this great natural foods store nearby, Pemberton Farms, we bought organically raised alpine strawberry and basil plants for $12 with our yard sale money. I was so excited! We had a pediatrician "meet-and-greet" immediately afterwards, and it was pretty amusing to have two plants sitting under our waiting room chairs the whole time. On the way home, a lady exiting the bus called back, "Good luck with the berries and that baby!"

Hubby planted both of them the next day in planters left behind from the previous tenants. We put them out on the fire escape. I'll post pictures soon.

The whole planting thing is so new to us: we're scratching our heads at what to do next. I already read online that we should have made the soil very moist for the basil prior to replanting it and different sources vary on the amount of sunshine the strawberry plant should receive (some say partial, some say full). I guess all of the little errors are part of the learning curve. Really, though, what do we do now? Should we put up netting to keep the birds and squirrels from eating the fruit? How often do we prune? What else do we need to know? I need to do some research, but if anyone has any suggestions, I'd appreciate it!

I'm considering buying equipment for vermicomposting with some more of the yard sale money and saving the rest. I have to look into that, too. This site gave me a better picture but I want to look some more.

Fetus news: all systems go, just waiting and imagining what being a parent is really like.

Word

"We are all the same people, all of us. You're no different than I am. Our love is the same. When someone says, 'You can have a contract, and you'll still have insurance, and you'll get all that,' it sounds to me like saying, 'Well, you can sit there, you just can't sit there.'" -Ellen DeGeneres

Tuesday, May 20

Vegan blueberry pancakes for Mother's Day


Hubby made some delicious vegan pancakes for a Mother's Day breakfast feast. Here's the recipe, in case you're hungry:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
2 cups soymilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Frozen blueberries (as many as you like: we like a lot)

Stir together the dry ingredients in one bowl and whip the wet ingredients (including the blueberries) into another bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring. Leave 5-10 minutes to rise.

Lightly oil a skillet and heat over medium flame. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the skillet at a time, and cook about 3 minutes. Flip and repeat.

I may not be a full-fledged mother yet, but these pancakes were sure delicious.

Wednesday, May 14

Apples and burrrrrrnaners



I've recently come across Green Bean's blog, thanks to Nadine at In Blue Ink, and I found myself saying yes, yes, yes to all the questions she poses on this post. I also recommend clicking on the the link to Global Rich List. I love being inspired by other bloggers--thanks for the link, Nadine, and for motivating me to finally reserve Last Child in the Woods at my library!

This past weekend, I finally made the 20-minute walk to Menotomy Rocks Park. I've been wanting to get back there for awhile, but the chilly weather has deterred any and all efforts to do so. It was still a bit nippy Sunday, but we took the dogs out there. It's amazing to see the change from frosty white, ice-covered bare limbs to tiny green budding life in the small forest. I felt revitalized, and so glad that a small section of nature had prevailed in this inner suburb.

In the world of work, we've finally reached an agreement. I'll be working four days a week, two from home. We'll need to make up the money I'm losing as a result, but I will be happier and perhaps more motivated to sell some of my photos once again. We're slowly compressing life down to the simple lane, and as we travel, learning how to deal with the transition and the friends and family who honk and drive by, sometimes taunting our way of life. The further we inch along, the more content I feel with this life.

Friday, May 9

Food: waste not, want leftovers!

We started a monthly budget a few weeks ago. We've always paid attention to where we spend our money (you kind of have to when you essentially live paycheck-to-paycheck), but it was interesting to see how much is spent in each category relative to the next category. For the most part, what we spend money on reflects our values.

Our largest monthly expense is, by far, our rent. Our smallest monthly expense is transportation. This fits with our values, in that we're keeping gas emissions low by living practically in the city, but, as many of you know, I would prefer leaving the Boston area (so expensive!) for a more rural setting in a walkable community (Asheville, North Carolina comes to mind). In the meantime, while Hubby finishes up school, I have to stick it out. I'm not sure if it's worth moving again when our lease is up in October. If we move farther out, our rent will go down but our transportation costs will rise. Furthermore, in this area, you have to pay a non-refundable upfront fee (usually one month's rent) just to get in the apartment--in addition to the security deposit and first and last month's rent. So losing out on the $800-$1200 upfront fee is a huge factor in whether or not it's worth it to move yet again.

Coming in second in monthly expenses is our food bill. This isn't as shocking to us as it would be to most Americans (who generally pay only 13.3% of their budgets on food, nearly half of which is from restaurants). I knew we spent quite a bit on food because we buy organic and local whenever possible, but this is an area we definitely need to trim now that Fetus is in our lives. We have been cooking from scratch for several years, but we need to cook more from scratch. Hubby has started making bread and pizza dough from scratch, and although you have to wait longer to consume it, it's much better tasting and cheaper to boot. The problem with cooking everything from scratch is, of course, time. We definitely don't eat out much though. I think we've been to a restaurant maybe 8 times in the last year ... and almost every time it's been with friends or visitors.

I read this blog that inspired me to try to find ways I can save more food items when we're cooking. I still want to start composting our food scraps, but this is a good start towards reducing food waste as well.

This Forbes article describes how Americans make and spend money, differentiating between how the "top-earners" and "lowest one-fifth" spend. It follows that we're in the lowest one-fifth, spending the most on housing and food. I thought it was interesting, though, that the "top-earners" spend the second most on transportation. Maybe it's all those fancy jets polluting our airways ... Still, I assumed it would be entertainment, not transportation.

We applied for another student loan under Hubby's summer classes so we can afford this maternity leave. Hubby is still looking for a second part-time job, and I asked my work for freelance projects while I'm at home with the newborn. You gotta love America's "family values."

I entered round three of negotiations with the head honcho this week concerning post-maternity leave plans. You might remember that they offered me a managing editor promotion as a consultant (no benefits) or a full-time communications position with two days flextime (with benefits). Today, I asked for the communications position with two days from home, two days at the office, the fifth day optional but a comp day if used--with the same salary I have now.

My logic behind the salary proposal is based on their alternative: hiring a completely new communications person full-time. They can't very well say that this person has the same skills, company knowledge, training, company software programs, etc. that I do after 10 months, and I figure those skills and that knowledge are worth at least 1/5th of my current pay. I expected the negotiations to center around this figure of 1/5th, but the head honcho threw me for a loop (an illogical one at that). She basically told me they can't do that, because if I was paid my full salary working 4/5ths time, then everyone should be able to work 4/5ths time for their salary. Perhaps she misunderstood my point of their alternative (hiring, training, etc. a new employee). She actually said "increasing pay based on the skills you have from working here doesn't fly with me." I figured she just didn't want to give me the money, in which case I might just look for a new job. But then she says since it's a new position with new responsibilities, they can take a look at increasing the salary and then adjusting that figure down to 4/5ths. And then she says no fifth optional day, but "maybe we could give you some freelance work to do for that day from home." Ummm ... wouldn't that be working the three days from home, two at the office that I originally asked for? OK Sherlock.

So it's back to the waiting game while she discusses this with the other directors. I'm more than 36 weeks along, how long are we planning to wait here? The strange thing is, the company already announced to all my co-workers that I would be working in the full-time communications position, which is certainly news to me. I haven't agreed to anything yet, and seeing how unpaid my maternity leave is, I don't owe them. I don't have to come back to this company (although I really don't want to look for a job with a newborn on my hip and a breast pump in my hand, but they don't need to know that).

Wednesday, May 7

Fetus coming soon

I went to the midwife's yesterday and had an internal exam. She can already feel the baby's head! She guesses that Fetus won't be here by next week, but it "might not be too long." I'm hoping Fetus lasts for at least another week, because you can't deliver in the birthing center until you're at least 37 weeks along.

When I got home, I was so excited that I couldn't go to sleep at my normal grandma hour and now I'm cleaning the house like a fiend. We still need to put the crib together, launder the new baby clothes and bedding, etc. etc. and here I am now, cleaning the toilet with baking soda. I get to meet Fetus soon!

In the world of work, J., our graphic designer, was inside the elevator with Goo Be Gone when I rode back up from my super-quick lunch break. As he scrubbed away at a Velcroed sign, he laughed and said, "I got two college degrees so I could clean elevators." As the elevator beeped and opened to my floor, I said, holding my nose from the chemical stench, "Yeah, and I got a 4.0 in college so I could make some labels." Wouldn't it be lovely to have a challenging job one day? I guess that's where Fetus comes in!

Tuesday, May 6

Word

"It isn't only our food is travelling great distances to reach us; we, too, have moved a great distance from our food. This most intimate nourishment, this stuff of life--where does it come from? Who produces it? How do they treat their soil, crops, animals? How do their choices--my choices--affect my neighbors and the air, land, and water that surround us? If I knew where my food and drink came from, would I still want to eat it? If even my daily bread has become a mystery, might that total disconnection be somehow linked to the niggling sense that at any moment the apocalyptic frogs might start falling from the sky?" -J.B. MacKinnon

Word

"Man is born free and everywhere is in chain stores." -Graffiti as quoted in The 100 Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon

Book recommendation

Over the weekend, I finished reading The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating by Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon. The couple embarks on a year of eating only food within 100 miles from their urban apartment in Vancouver. And unlike many of those books where the real-life experiment sounds intriguing, this one is actually well written.

They give you the facts behind their decisions, like the popularly cited study from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, which reports the food we eat typically travels 1,500 to 3,000 miles from farm to plate. They also delve further into the facts -- that study is only including fresh produce: imagine how many miles all the various chemicals and ingredients thrown into our processed foods travels combined! It's incredibly baffling to read about how cheap oil has revolutionized the food industry to the point where you may have corn farmed in Iowa shipped to China to be canned, only to be shipped back to, say, New York to be put on a grocery store shelf.

The authors are really honest about their experiences, too, including the transition from convenience to planning for food (winter in Canada, anyone?) as well as their own personal evolutions. They emphasize food as a connection to place and community, something perhaps longed for yet often not fully realized on an individual level.

I highly recommend reading this book if you haven't yet. I've had it on my to-read list for nearly two years, and I'm so glad I finally did read it. It's the type of book that could change your actions, it's that inspiring. And now I really can't wait for the farmers markets to start up! Only three more weeks here in Boston!

Sunday, May 4

What to name a baby boy

Dreamy just asked me about this in a comment ...

So I still can't think of a boy's name. We've had a girl's name in mind for years, so that's taken care of. Some people have suggested using the girl's name if it's a boy, too, but if you knew the name and the meaning behind it, you'd know that wouldn't work.

We want to name the boy something that has meaning for both of us ... maybe after a plant or something in nature, or after an artist or writer or a color. I like what Momma Val did, using an ancestor's name for her baby's first name. We looked through some family trees, though, and found nothing exciting.

Nothing we come up with fulfills the two basic criteria: it sounds good/we can imagine calling a child that and it means something. Off beat is good, off sound is bad. We're thinking shorter is better, since our last name is somewhat long.

I'm at a loss. Open to suggestions, too. I mean, really, at this point ... I asked the midwives during orientation night how quickly we had to have a name on the birth certificate. They laughed, but the good news is you have a few days. We just might need it if Fetus is a baby boy.

Saturday, May 3

Did you have an imaginary friend when you were young?

I did! Bonnie and Shoe-shoe, and they were married. I think I was about seven. I was reading this article on children with imaginary friends and I couldn't help but smiling at my memories of saying goodnight to Bonnie and Shoe-shoe. Shoe-shoe actually was a stuffed animal when the stuffed animal was around, and imaginary when I was away from the stuffed animal (at school, a friend's house, and so on).

Did any of you all, my blogger friends, have imaginary friends?

Gray and full of wonder


Cold, gray rain again. The clouds in this town seem omniscient. I'm trying to think back to the sun of last week, the budding green trees that are now slightly mud colored ... hence the picture.

My sister is getting married today, in four and a half hours to be exact. She only has my parents there as witnesses. A judge, her fiance, and my parents gathered around a white gazebo in sunny Virginia. I never imagined being apart from her on her wedding day ... though I'm not sure I ever imagined her being married, either. They're planning to move to Texas at the end of the month. I'm not sure if they will, though. My sister is one of those people who spends a lot of time talking about how her life is going to change in dramatic ways, but it never materializes. She wants, but she doesn't do.

Week 35 of this Fetus life. I'm having some heartburn, which happens because your stomach is pushed so far up to your esophagus by your ever-expanding uterus. No real complaints, though. I will miss having this motion inside me, safe and warm. I feel comfortable knowing s/he is OK just by a kick or a nudge in my belly. It must be strange, to enter into motherhood and be introduced to this little being after nearly a year of having her/him growing inside you. I'm almost mourning the coming loss of being pregnant, though of course I'm excited to finally meet Fetus.

Hubby has finals this coming week. MIDI projects and mixing songs and math for acoustics class and all that good stuff. I can't believe he's been at Berklee for a year now, or that we've lived in Boston that long. People keep asking us what's next. Next is next, I suppose. We'll see where this wild road takes us.

The rain is drizzling down now, a slow soup on the sidewalks. So many worms, the birds are ignoring our feeders.

My little sister, getting married. She is doing today.

Wednesday, April 30

Great grateful

I read this thoughtful article about being grateful and I thought I'd share a good quote from it (and perhaps entice you to read more about positive psychology):

"Here is what I think: that being grateful for what I have makes me want less. Wanting less makes me consume less. Consuming less makes me treat the planet more kindly. The equation goes, therefore, gratitude equals kindness." -Colin Beavan

Word

"It would indeed be a tragedy if the history of the human race proved to be nothing more noble than the story of an ape playing with a box of matches on a petrol dump." -David Ormsby-Gore

Tuesday, April 29

Picking a pediatrician

We had our first "meet and greet" with a pediatrician today and I thought I'd post some of our questions in case anyone else is also searching for a pediatrician. I'd recommend beginning to ask for recommendations for a pediatrician around your second trimester and meeting with potential doctors in your third trimester. I think that's a pretty typical, by-the-book strategy. (Thanks to Momma Val for reminding us to start the process sooner rather than later!)

We were mostly curious about office procedures and the doctor's philosophy.

How quick are you to prescribe medicine? Do you automatically give antibiotics for ear infections?

How comfortable do you feel giving nutritional advice for vegetarian kids? For vegan kids?

What is your position on circumcision? Do you advise retracting the foreskin to clean?

How long would you recommend breastfeeding? Do you advocate feeding from one side or both per feeding? What kind of help is available for those who have difficulty breastfeeding?

How do you feel about alternative therapies?

And then the more office procedure questions:

How much time is allotted for visits?

How long is the typical wait? How much of it is spent in the waiting room?

How far in advance are you booked for well-child visits?

Who answers patient calls during the day? Emergency calls at night? Do you charge for phone advice?

Maternity leave and how you can get screwed

I could really go for some cupcakes right about now. Or maybe some cinnamon buns. Mhmmm.

It's pouring rain today, much like the pouring thoughts I'm drowning in. Choices, choices. At least they're giving me options, I guess ... bright side, bright side, think bright side.

Maternity leave: they are being a bitch.

Option 1: up to 12 weeks unpaid leave with benefits. I get to send them a check for the amount normally taken out of my paycheck every other week.

Option 2: they fire me. I'm not joking. This way, they explained, I could take more than three months and collect unemployment, but I'd have to pay COBRA meanwhile for health insurance. Taking more than three months sounds attractive, but the math certainly doesn't add up (I would net about $150/month with this option ... and I would have to lie about looking for a job because my work would hire me back). They can technically get away with this because they really are eliminating my job.

The thing that pisses me off the most is that I requested and verbally was given permission for the standard three-month leave many weeks ago, and they are putting this on me now, when I'm almost 35 weeks along. I knew that technically they could do this, but I thought they'd be a little more, uh, humane about the whole process. We definitely don't have this money, and I guess we'll take out more on Hubby's student loan to get through the summer. I'm just not willing to give up those first three months with Fetus. Hubby has already begun searching for a second job (more part-time work), which will make everything more difficult since he has filled his school schedule to more than overflowing for the summer.

As for eliminating my job, they gave me two options post-maternity leave. I can either work full-time in communications with two days a week from home (I asked for three) OR I can be contracted for one year to be a managing editor, which sounds great when I write it like that -- that's a promotion, after all -- but it's without benefits on a career track I'm not too keen on (and a host of smaller issues, like a difficult supervisor).

I haven't made any decisions yet, though I've talked with two different directors trying to push other options. Looking back to the bright side, at least I only have a month or so left and then no mas admin work!

Now can somebody get me a cupcake?!

Thursday, April 24

Word

"It is one of the absurdities of the modern division of labor that, having replaced physical labor with fossil fuel, we now have to burn even more fossil fuel to keep our unemployed bodies in shape."
-Michael Pollan, on working out at the gym, in The New York Times Magazine's April 20, 2008 article "Why Bother?"

Tuesday, April 22

Make your own cleaners from baking soda

I found these recipes for household cleaners based in baking soda. I need to try these out!

What's your Earth Day resolution?

Happy Earth Day!

I'm still formulating a good year-long goal in celebration, but I'm thinking about our trash. We have whittled it down to one 13-gallon trash bag per week, but I think we can do better than that. Composting could be the answer, and it's something I've always wanted to begin. It would be a good first step to my ultimate dream of growing my own organic food.

I also want to start making my own cleaners for the house. I use baking soda right now for the toilet, but other than that I use Seventh Generation and Eco Clean products. I could save money and plastic by making them myself.

Lunch on the Greenway again today, followed by an afternoon midwife appointment; everything's looking good so far. Fetus has a good, steady heartbeat and is head down, feet on my right side. Have to get a Strep B test next visit, and then the weekly appointments begin.

Work overload still, and increasing. I simply won't get it done by the end of the month, when the majority of it is due. I've warned my supervisors numerous times that they've put me in over my head this time, but they haven't taken any action. Heard directors discussing "contract" position at work (read: no benefits) -- which would be perfectly legal since I don't qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act protection. Waiting, still wondering.

This blog I just found (it's mid-May now) has two great posts, one on composting and the other on cleaning.

Monday, April 21

What to do with picky wish lists

I'm eating flaxseed oatmeal topped with raisins and chopped walnuts while shopping online for my nephew's first birthday.

My sister-in-law is such a control freak about birthdays. His wish list includes "touch and feel or noise-making baby books from Babies R Us only." I can understand that he's at that developmental phase for textures and interaction with books, but why does it have to be from Babies R Us? So she can return it easily and get what she wants. She's done this with every holiday, and if she opens your gift and it's not from "her" store, she makes a sour-puss face and doesn't say anything. Yikes! Hope my baby doesn't end up like that.

Not sure how to respond to a gift receiver like that. I used to try to push her boundaries a bit, maybe get a touch and feel book from somewhere outrageous like a museum gift shop, but it's almost not worth it. I've tried not buying her anything, but that's the ultimate no-no (she's very materialistic, so that is a form of not loving her). I've tried handmade. I've tried following her list to a T, and that obviously works best. She's just not open to change and it's easier to comply with people like that than fight it. So I'm looking for touch and feel books at Babies R Us now. Oh the joy of gift giving.

Sunday, April 20

Word

"Sit at the feet of the master long enough, and they'll start to smell." -John Sauget

Due dates: babies aren't library books!

This weekend has been get-ready-it's-coming. On Friday, I opened a package filled with gifts from Momma Val, including a used Brest Friend support pillow, which she highly recommends over Boppy, three beautiful (and oh-so-soft!) handmade swaddle blankets that I just love, adorable knit booties, a pass-it-on bear, and much more. Of course it made me cry. She has given me so much, not only gifts but time and advice. Thanks Momma Val! I really miss you.

I'm listening to Joe Pass and relaxing after two days spent with my mom and sister. It wasn't as tense as their visits usually are, actually, which was refreshing. We went to visit Target, where I haven't shopped in over a year, to make some returns. It was strange being back in a big-box store, especially since the only major chain I frequent is Whole Foods. My mom used her GPS system to find it and I discovered that she talks back to the GPS. The voice repeats "turn left at whatever whatever" when you're almost at the intersection, and my mom will say things like "I know! I heard you the first time!" all pissed off.

(A side note on the big-box store shopping: my goal is to frequent only farmers markets, co-ops, small mom-n-pop stores, etc., but I'm not perfect. Whole Foods. Registry at Babies R Us.)

My mom mentioned next time she saw me I'd be a full-fledged mama and that hit home. They brought up a used Fisher-Price highchair (yea for used baby items!) and the baby's crib. We haven't set up the crib yet, but the highchair is sitting in my kitchen and every time I walk by, I'm reminded of how I'm "in the home stretch" as my sister-in-law put it.

Everyone keeps asking me "how much longer?" and I find that a hard question to answer. Despite appearances, I'm not all-knowing. I usually try to say "Well, I'm almost 33 1/2 weeks now, and a full-term pregnancy is considered anywhere from 37 to 41 weeks." I read this article about due dates and how randomly 40 weeks was determined as a full gestational period. It was also interesting to read because it suggests that an early ultrasound (which I had at 8 weeks because of slight spotting) should not override a known date of last menstrual period. I knew my LMP for sure, but they still changed my due date from May 28 to June 5 based on that initial ultrasound. This could pose a problem if I deliver at 36 weeks according to the ultrasound, because at my birthing center, anything before 37 weeks is an automatic hospital delivery ... but that could be at 37 weeks if they paid attention to my LMP. Same for postterm.

Not knowing when Fetus will make his/her first appearance, I feel my baby to-do list with increasing pressure. The partial list: put together crib and rearrange furniture, final selection for a pediatrician (meet and greet scheduled for next week), write down our birth preferences, fill out birth certificate pre-delivery worksheets, create a mock-up for the baby announcements, come up with all the addresses for the announcements, design baby thank-yous, launder some of the NB and 0-3 baby clothes and some bedding, watch a DVD on the baby sling, clean the used baby books, stock the pantry, dog and cat-proof the baby areas, prepare a diaper bag, order gDiaper liners, organize a breastfeeding zone ... and the list just keeps on going. This, coupled with my hectic work flow at my job and the indecisiveness on my maternity leave, is making it harder for me to relax. I'm trying, though.

So, my maternity leave ... I caught the HR manager printing out a copy of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). That makes me nervous. The act, which to me is a very bare minimum of what a parent should actually receive postpartum, mandates 12 weeks of unpaid leave--and it only applies to companies with more than 50 employees and employees who have been there for more than 12 months. Neither of those apply to me, and I certainly can't afford unpaid leave for three months. I'm astonished that my work might pull this on me, especially now that I'm almost 34 weeks along and I put in my request two months ago. Hubby and I are trying to figure out what we'll do if they make that asshole move for a typical three-month leave. The FMLA needs reform, that's for sure. How can you claim to be centered on "family values" with a policy like that and a horrendous lack of affordable childcare options? I know, family values is just as much a euphemism as the Clean Air Act, but it's pathetic how we can be fooled as a society by titles or marketing phrases.

The Boston Marathon is Monday. I can't believe we've already lived here a year.

Wednesday, April 16

Today, yea

33 weeks.

I want a good picture (read: creative and beautiful) of me pregnant, but it hasn't happened yet. It's finally sunny in the upper 50s out today, and plus I'm having a good hair day, so when Hubby gets home, we're hitting the streets with camera in hand.

Speaking of which, tomorrow night I'll be at the opening of By Way of Broadway: New York Photographs by Cervin Robinson, an art exhibit at MIT of urban photography, while my VCR is hopefully recording King of Corn on PBS.

This was a quickie but I'm a sleepy.

Monday, April 14

The Story of Stuff

I came across this blog, Crunchy Domestic Goddess, through BerryBird's blogroll and decided to watch the video she recommends, The Story of Stuff. It's 20 minutes long, but a very quick download (with a pause button) and well worth the time. As Crunchy Domestic Goddess writes, "Warning: it will make you think." Check out The Story of Stuff.

Some people I will just never understand ...

One of the directors at my job, and sadly, not the one who volunteered the information that I was competent enough to change a template, told us this little gem last week:

"When my house cleaners come by each week, I try to remember to leave them a little something extra ... some more dirty laundry or I'll throw a party the night before or maybe add a couple dishes to the sink. You have to make them work for their money, you know."

I swear, there are some people who I will just never be able to get. How does someone end up acting like that? And how do they not feel positively bad about themselves for even thinking like that, let alone doing it and then bragging about it to your co-workers? If I ever had a house cleaner -- which I wouldn't, but if I did -- I would probably tidy up before they come over so they wouldn't have to work as hard on my house at least. And I'd tip well.

Speaking of house cleaners, I recently finished reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. I had been meaning to read it for years but I was a little disappointed. It was a good perspective for an upper-middle class professional to air around town to other comfortable middle-classers, but I didn't learn much at all and I don't think she took the financial part of the deal seriously enough.

Sunday, April 13

Word

"Our grammar might teach us to divide the world into active subjects and passive objects, but in a coevolutionary relationship every subject is also an object, every object a subject." -Michael Pollan

Mememememe

I was tagged by whatever girl while I didn't have Internet up and running, so it's late but, hey, they say that's better than never.

The Rules

1. Post the rules before you give your answers.

2. List one fact about yourself beginning with each letter of your middle name. If you don't have a middle name, use your maiden name or your mother's maiden name.

3. At the end of your blog post, tag one person (or blogger of another species) for each letter of your middle name. Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they've been tagged.

Well, I'm glad my middle name is short now: Lynn.

Learned how to write z in cursive a year later than the rest of the alphabet. My fourth grade teacher thought I wrote a little eccentrically, until she pulled me aside and asked me to write the alphabet in cursive. Ahh, the elusive Z. Which I could use more of right about now ... zzzzzzz.

Yearning to live in a climate where I can grow my own food year-round and afford to spend my time doing so. The city is nice, I love walking everywhere and the free activities ... but why can't I have that in an affordable small town, too? Maybe I belong in Europe or something.

Not digging this whole maternity leave debate going on at my work. Several people are leaving in August, which is around when I'd be back from my three-month leave, so my job may be changing. I requested to work from home three days a week, but their reply seems to be contingent upon what my job description is (which makes sense) ... and yet they aren't addressing the staffing changes yet, so the answer to any maternity and post-maternity leave plans is still up in the air. I'm 32 and a half weeks! Babies don't arrive on timetables! What if I deliver at 36 weeks? Hello! Let's get talking here, Mr. and Mrs. Director People!

Number of pets I've had so far: 26, I think. A Schnauzer that I barely remember, a momma and her kitten named after She-ra that ran away when my mom tried to pack it in a moving box (not joking), a black cat that was given to me for my 8th birthday, two guinea pigs, a tadpole that was nearly a frog when that black cat I just mentioned ate him, two canaries, a dozen fish including several algae-eaters that I loved to watch, an awesome Sheltie, a rat that began as part of my ecology project in high school, and the three animals I get to be with today: a black-and-white cat that was found as a stray walking the halls of my high school in the summer, a beagle/Australian shepherd mix that was abandoned and abused in Memphis, and a black lab mix abandoned in a farm with her brothers and sisters in Kentucky. (I'm not including all the pets that were considered my brothers' and sister's.)

Four people to tag:
Momma Val (haha, she has a long middle name), BerryBird, Nadine, and Dreamy.

Now that I've fulfilled my neglected obligations, I feel better.

Yesterday was sunny for a few hours before a torrential downpour and night of thunderstorms. I didn't get to go for a nice walk like Nadine, but we managed to get the dogs out--sans leashes, which is something we're working on with them (they were both abused and frighten easily, so having control over where they run to when they're scared has been important)--and gave them baths. What does Dixie, the beagle/Australian shepherd mix, do to dry off? Runs into the neighbor's newly planted tulip bed and covers herself in the dirt. Luckily she didn't pull up any of the small green leaves that are beginning to pop up. Sheesh. And you have to picture me, with a big pregnant belly wearing sweats covered in dog hair and soap suds, running after her with the hose trailing behind me and watering my butt without me realizing it. I looked back afterwards and it definitely looked like I peed my pants.

More rain today, but I'm staying inside and finishing reading The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan (which I highly recommend, by the way). Mike's brewed some coffee while he works on a MIDI project and it smells delicious ... but I'm not giving in! So far, I've only ingested caffeine by the way of a few bites of chocolate, a chocolate chip vegan cookie my co-worker made me, a chocolate cupcake, and a cup of decaf tea. I'm not sure how long this lack of caffeine will hold up though--I'm pretty sure it won't last through breastfeeding and the early parenthood exhaustion I have been forewarned about.