Monday, February 28, 2011

Babywearing bliss

I had a stomach bug over the weekend and Peter was fussy whenever I needed to sleep. My husband was saintly about the whole thing, as were his parents whom we were visiting. Today was back to reality, though. He had to go in to work and had band practice tonight, so Peter and I were on our own.
We made it through the day with extended nursing sessions and co-sleeping for naps. He was still cranky for much of the day, but it was doable. I even got a couple hours of work done! Tonight I needed to go grocery shopping, so I popped him into our infant carrier and headed off to Wegmans. Now, most people smile when they see babies, but I have noticed a much stronger positive reaction when those little ones are in a baby carrier. The dreaded errand became a little balm for my maternal instincts, which have been weak these past few days. Peter was happy to be snuggled against me (instead of so far away in the cart facing me!) and lots of people paused in their own busyness to smile at us. Why don't I do this more often?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Love is...

I took a nap this afternoon. It was absolutely fantastic. Peter was up frequently last night with gas, which meant I was awake also. I worked for a few hours today, came home for about an hour to nurse Peter, then left again for a dentist appointment. I was really hoping that Peter would be sleepy when I got home so we could nap together, but he was completely disinterested. I tried to nurse him and cuddle to get him to sleep. No luck. My husband, who had been watching Peter all day while working from home, volunteered to take him downstairs. I love that man. I got more than an hour of sleep and woke up feeling approximately 50 times better. I am blessed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A dream

"What is prejudice?" "Um, I think it's when somebody's sick." from Tom Clay's What the World Needs Now

My husband and I were talking tonight about racism and how to raise Peter in such a way that he will judge people not "by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." This seems so difficult to do in a country where non-European skin is associated with a culture of violence. People I know and otherwise would respect have flatly ordered their daughters not to date outside their race. Friends of mine growing up were shocked that I lived in the city, because my neighborhood was in good repair and had no violent crime. What do we do to help Peter value all people? I feel like this is a losing battle before it has even begun. And yet, I know that to be apathetic will guarantee failure.

Do you have cross-racial friendships?
Are you uncomfortable when outnumbered by those with a different skin tone?
Does it bother you to be around people speaking a language you do not understand?
Would you enjoy walking around downtown in your nearest metro area?
What "type of people" take public transportation?

See my point?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

He just eats it up

We have a piano in our home that prompts many visitors to ask, "Who plays?" My usual response is, "I do, but only to entertain myself. No one else would find my playing to be that enjoyable." The notable exception to this statement is Peter. I think he likes the vibrations, because he is far happier lying on the floor than sitting with me while I play. Today as I was serenading him with my recital piece from sixth grade (one of approximately 15 songs I can play), I heard a grinding noise. I looked down and saw my little boy gnawing away on the leg of the piano bench. We now have a few more scuff marks on our used furniture. I chose a used piano because I liked the sound better, but having a bench that has seen a lot of use is a nice side effect. Now whatever we do to it is not a big deal!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cry and you cry alone?

My husband and I talked last night about how to put Peter to bed. Or rather, I talked and he reminded me that he and science still both support me. We do not put Peter down and leave him to cry it out. This isn't to say he doesn't cry during bedtime, but he doesn't cry alone. I nurse him and sing lullabies and snuggle with him until he is quiet and relaxed, then ease him into his bassinet next to our bed. Once down, he sometimes fusses for a few minutes, but if he starts to escalate rather than his "I'm tired but I don't want to sleep" cry, I pick him up and start all over again.
A lot of people think I'm crazy and spending far more time than is necessary. Nights when it takes more than an hour to get him down, I start to wonder if they're right. I try to just put him down and let him cry, but he is miserable and I know all he wants is to be held and feel safe. I have to pick him up. In the end, my litmus test for parenting decisions is, "Am I doing this because it is best for him or because it is convenient for me?" If I left him to cry himself to sleep, it would definitely be a case of my convenience. The counter-arguments about teaching him independence and self-soothing just seem like excuses. I don't know any teenagers that need to be rocked to sleep, so I am confident he will figure it out.
Nights like tonight, when we started putting him down at 7:00 and he is wide awake (and very happy) at 8:30 make me question myself. Thankfully, my husband and son are always willing to give me an emphatic answer.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Experiencing a child-friendly museum

We went to the National Museum of Play today with our friends and their young daughter. My husband received a pair of tickets at Christmas to see the exhibit about the history of video games, which he enjoyed. I appreciated the time capsule videos, while Peter was enthralled watching the carousel. Something for everyone. One thing I love about this museum is how much thought went into accommodating families. You would think that should be a given, but a surprising number of places geared towards children are not particularly kid-friendly. (How many crying, frustrated kids - and parents - have you seen at a zoo?) The entrance includes a large drop-off loop, probably big enough for ten to fifteen cars, to facilitate loading and unloading small children. The museum has enough open space to make stroller travel possible and provides small strollers to use at no cost. The bathrooms have step-stools and changing tables (in both men's and women's rooms!). The coat room offers small and large hangers. My absolute favorite accommodations are the "Guest Rests." These small rooms have comfortable rocking chairs, ideal for nursing, with some books and toys if you have a toddler with you. They are clean and relatively quiet. The room has a few windows that look out over a play area, if you have an older child who can play independently. The overall message of the room is, "Welcome, we made a space just for you and your family." Such a refreshing change of pace from many nursing areas that seem to say, "If you're going to do that, don't make the rest of us see you." National Museum of Play gets five stars from me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sufficient

We babysat a friend's little girl for a few hours yesterday and again this morning. She is about 18 months old and very cute. She was well-behaved while she was here, treating Peter very gently and being careful with the toys and books she used. Aside from accidentally spilling a fruit cup on her shirt, it was an ideal babysitting situation. But I am exhausted. I know that when it is my own child, I won't feel the need to be hyper-vigilant, but I am still concerned. How will I manage watching two or more small children while keeping on top of housework and spending time with my husband? I have said that if God blesses us with another child, I want to quit work and stay home full time... after this experience, I think it will be a matter of necessity, not preference. I am sure a contributing factor to my stress level is that I put in five hours of work today, which is the most I've worked since returning from maternity leave. "Don't worry about tomorrow, for each day has troubles enough of its own." I know His grace will always be sufficient for my needs. Maybe this time before bed should be a time of relaxing with God and my husband, rather than a time for dishes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The cost of "going organic"

Since Peter was born (almost seven months ago), we have overhauled our food habits and increased the grocery line on our budget. We had been spending $150/month for the two of us and now are up to $210/month. If you surf the web and look for how to eat organically, many sites will tell you that switching to organic food will save you money because you'll buy less junk food and fewer processed and individually packaged items. This is true only if you had negative shopping habits before you switched. Buying organic beef, soy milk, organic apples and granola cereal definitely costs more than boxed mac-n-cheese, "family packs" of ground beef, and whatever fruits were cheapest. To us, it has been worth the cost. We like to know that Peter is not ingesting all kinds of chemicals through my breastmilk. It is satisfying to know we are voting with our wallet to support organic farms and reduce the use of pesticides that inevitably end up in our drinking water. We enjoy shopping at the public market when the weather is nice, supporting local business and having a fun time people-watching, too! We buy Monks Bread, strengthening the local economy, getting healthy bread, and supporting the monastery. And although I love fast, sloppy, Mexican food from Taco Bell, we have switched to Chipotle when we crave food from south of the border. Responsible spending and consumption of resources is an essential part of stewardship. Are we changing the world? Well, every little bit helps.

From my husband: I'd add for those who may be thinking of switching that it "pays" to do your research. We still buy "regular" bananas, for example, because the peels keep enough of the chemicals out that you're not getting a great benefit from switching. Ideally, we'd go all natural, but since we don't have that kind of money, it's been nice to know which areas are more important to change our habits.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love and marriage

Before I had ever met my husband, a good friend of mine told me that marriage should be synergistic. You shouldn't get married because you're lonely, or you want children, or even 'only' because you're in love. Marriage is a sacrament and a covenant with God; as such, He should be a major player in the decision. When two Christians marry, they should do so because together they can serve God better than either of them can individually.
My husband and I will have been married 2 1/2 years on Wednesday. I can state with no hesitation that I can better serve God with my husband by my side than I could on my own. He is the one who supports me when I am unsure, questions my intentions when they appear less than honorable, teaches me through his own struggles, and encourages me in my success. We talk through issues of morality, decisions about child-rearing, and how to make a positive impact on our society. When I am faltering, he finds faith enough for both of us. He is my sounding board for ideas for my Sunday school class and my consolation when I feel that I am not reaching my students. When I am frustrated by bureaucracy, he reminds me of the good I accomplish through my job. He keeps me going and lovingly lets me know that I do the same for him.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cheerful giving

At a recent Bible study, we discussed God's call to generosity as described in 2 Corinthians 9. I find that chapter to be encouraging. It is an endorsement of my existing feelings about the resources I have, namely, that they all belong to God and should be shared accordingly. I struggle in many parts of my spiritual life, but sharing what I have is one thing that comes easily to me. I am uncertain, however, about how to live out that gift in such a way that it encourages others. Is it possible to model a generosity that inspires others without appearing to be prideful?
In contrast, consider the virtue of patience (an area where I often fall short). One who had cultivated patience can easily live out that gift in such a way that others notice it and are reminded that they, too, are called to be patient. The man who listens attentively to stories from his father at the nursing home (despite many repetitions) and the teacher who will explain a concept in different ways until her pupil understands both model patience in a public but unassuming way. Can that occur with generous giving? It seems that if others know you are giving, the generosity appears tainted by pride.
The situation becomes even more difficult if you see a need to exhort a fellow Christian. For example, a member of my church once commented to me that she believed you should take care of yourself first and only then, if there are resources left over, give to God. I was nonplussed and said my family had always practiced 'tithing off the top', since our gifts came from God. She seemed annoyed and changed the subject. Of course, I could have said something noncommittal instead, but then how do we help each other grow in holiness? She certainly will never see our budget, so the fact that we give is not a witness in itself. I have yet to find a good answer to this issue.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Baking made easy

Eggs, oil, water, box
and then heat, wait, and inhale
the joy of brownies

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Decisions, decisions

A co-worker of mine, who will have her first child around the end of May, is coming over tomorrow to visit and discuss cloth diapers and breastfeeding and other baby things. I'm excited. First of all, Cyndi is a great person and hopefully will become a good friend. Secondly, I enjoy hosting people at my home; hospitality is fun. Finally, I love talking about my husband's and my parenting choices, especially with like-minded people. Calling my decisions "choices" implies that there were options, which almost seems deceptive. Truthfully, I never gave much consideration to using disposable diapers or formula. I did a lot of research about which type of cloth diapers to buy, but disposables were never an option. They are costly and create a huge amount of trash for the landfills. Likewise, I completely dismissed the idea of using formula, aside from a lurking fear that something would go wrong and I would have to supplement my milk.


The first few days after Peter came home were miserable as far as nursing him. It HURT. I remember crying when he was about five days old because I knew he would wake up soon and want to eat and it hurt so much I didn't think I could feed him and he would be hungry. It is rather funny, looking back, that my conclusion was that he would be hungry rather than that I would switch to formula. For the record, that prompted me to schedule an appointment with the lactation consultant at our pediatrician that day. She was immensely helpful and Peter's and my nursing relationship improved drastically. Since then, I've weathered blisters, cracks, countless plugged ducts, and two bouts of mastitis. Still, I have never considered switching to formula or even pumping on a regular basis. The peace and joy of nursing him is too precious to lose.


Cloth diapers have been a much easier commitment. For the first month, we had a diaper service as a gift from my mom; those were prefolds with covers by Diaperaps and Bummis. Then we switched to pocket diapers by TinyTush, adjustable diapers that should last Peter until he is toilet trained. About a month ago, a friend at church gave us some all-in-twos by SoftBum, which we like, especially for night diapers. (We add hemp soakers at night.) I have evolved from considering cloth diapers to be the obvious choice into a full-fledged diaper enthusiast. We even travel with cloth diapers! I am amazed at how I continue to grow and change as I follow my vocation to motherhood.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A quiet Christian

I work with a young man in ninth grade who is interested in becoming a mechanic some day. I'll call him John. Today, as part of his pre-vocational services, I arranged for him to shadow a mechanic on the job for an hour. I loved watching as John checked out the garage, examined the engine, and even got to help install a belt. He was so happy and clearly impressed by the mechanic. John goes to school near the garage and said he hopes to walk down on a lunch break some time and visit.
I left the visit feeling very optimistic. Optimistic about John, who appears to have found something that truly interests him with which he can make a good living. Optimistic about our educational system that provides alternative programs for children who simply detest standard academics (John is in a vocational BOCES program). Optimistic about the effect of a Christian witness. The mechanic, Jim Ryckman, is the owner of Rytek Automotive and uses his work to quietly witness to those around him. Amidst car magazines and the issues of Reader's Digest that grace every waiting room, you'll find a Bible and some Christian articles in Jim's shop. More often than not, Christian radio is playing in the garage. Jim himself is a caring, compassionate, and honest man who values people over things and relationships over money. I called him this afternoon around 1:30 to see if John could shadow him at some point. Jim knows my husband and me from working on our cars, but we are customers, not friends. And yet, when I explained that I had a young teen who was interested in auto mechanics, Jim didn't hesitate. Of course he would give of his time and expertise to a woman he barely knew and a young man he may never see again. He asked nothing in return.
I don't know if John will ever walk down to Rytek Automotive on his lunch break. But if he does, and if he finds a mentor in Jim, he will be truly blessed.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I am a food hero

I am making applesauce tonight from organic apples. Not only is it delicious, but I have the satisfaction of knowing it is one of the healthiest things I can eat. I get a similar feeling of contentment in the morning, as I eat my granola with raisins and organic soy milk. I feel like I am simultaneously making myself a better person and changing the world. It's awesome. On rare occasions, I still indulge in my unhealthy pleasures (hot dogs, boxed mac-n-cheese, potato chips). All heroes have their Kryptonite.
In related news, Peter had avocado tonight for the first time. As I introduce new foods, I pick things that I enjoy also, since there are inevitably left-overs. Sweet potatoes, applesauce, bananas -- no problem. Before tonight, I had never eaten plain avocado. Since I love guacamole, though, I was not concerned. Peter loved it and ate more food in one sitting than he has ever done in his short life. I'm glad one of us is happy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tomorrow is another chance

The most I created today was a sandwich, living on the edge by having more Miracle Whip and no Italian dressing instead of a little of each. I didn't even particularly experience other people's creativity. Or more to the point, I didn't take notice of it. As I drove around the city, I'm sure I passed multiple store-fronts and billboards and pieces of art, but I didn't really see them. At the staff meeting I attended this morning, some of my colleagues certainly spent care and time on their appearance and clothing, but I didn't appreciate it. When I went to the chili supper tonight at church, I vaguely remember some of the desserts had decorations on them, but all I did was look for something that had a lot of chocolate. All day, I was surrounded by people, the pinnacle of God's creation. I never took the time to notice, to connect, to do more than smile and make small talk. Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

It's all in the game

Today I played Carcassonne, a tile-placing game. My opponent really enjoyed the game and was excited to win (144 to 116). I was thrilled. This is the second time I've met this young man, who is one of my clients. He is in sixth grade and in foster care. The first time we met, I could barely coax a full sentence out of him, even just talking about his wrestling matches and what he likes to do on weekends. At the end of that session, I asked him to promise to give me a chance; he grudgingly agreed. I didn't actually expect any better rapport when I went to meet him today, but when I showed him the game he agreed to play and within a few turns was happily chatting away about his strategy. When I left, he asked me to bring the game back next time so we can play a more complicated version of it. Yes, playing a board game counts as "billable time." You see, his skill-building goal is to demonstrate decision-making skills, which he did every turn of the game. I love that my job encourages creativity!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Savor the moment

Time for a brief reflection on motherhood. I love my son more every day. His smiles and laughs inspire me to be absolutely ridiculous to coax one out of him. I love to cuddle with him when he is sleepy, as he burrows his head into my shoulder and eventually falls asleep. His joy in the water is contagious. As exasperating as it can be when I have chores I want to complete, I melt a little every time he reaches up and looks pleadingly at me. I love to nurse him and the immediate calm that brings him (and me!), no matter how upset he is. Even washing his diapers is not too much of a chore because I know how much more comfortable he is in cloth diapers and that I am saving the world for him to inhabit in the future. My husband has made me more able to love and now my son is doing the same for me. Each day he teaches me to be selfless and the immense rewards that brings. "How much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to those who ask of Him?"

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Matters of the heart

How do you balance the needs of a family? My family is small, composed of my husband, son, and me at this point. When the baby is exhausted, my husband is struggling with his own difficulties, and I just want to escape for a few hours to have time alone, it is hard to determine whose needs should have priority. Peter cannot care for himself, which usually means we respond to him immediately. I struggle, however, when I know he is fed, clean, and dry yet still is inconsolable if he is more than six inches away from me. My husband is capable of handling things on his own, but I am his wife and want to help him when I am able. I love both of the guys in my little family and desire to make life good for them. It's not that I feel guilty for taking time for myself; I want to help as much as I want to have a break. "In all things I do my best and then to God I leave the rest." I pray that God grants me the wisdom to manage my needs and care for my family at the same time.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lifesong

I love to sing. I sing along with the radio to every song I know and frequently bluff it to songs I don't know. I sing at home and have quite a few songs memorized. I sing lullabies to Peter before naps and at bedtime. It seems this habit is rubbing off on him. When I was putting him down today, he started "singing" along and continued until the song was done. His ability to form words or carry a tune is limited, but he is definitely trying! I am reminded that he wants to do everything my husband and I can do. Parenthood. What a calling!