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Archive for March, 2007

Community

I had a great thirtieth birthday yesterday.  I had to return the car we rented to visit family this weekend in the morning and had an hour or so to kill before picking up the new sling.  Since the Snapper hadn’t given me time to breakfast, I decided to pop into a local cafe for a cup of decaf and a scone.  It was a beautiful day, breezy and warm, and the cafe felt inviting.  A few minutes into my paper-reading some regulars spotted the Snapper, who was smiling and cooing as usual.  One thing led to another, and before I knew it I had four new friends: a local playwrite, a retired professor, a theatre production manager, and a coffee-server.  We talked about apostrophes and photography and that weird Jesus/antiChrist guy.  I stayed longer than I had originally intended, even nursing the Snapper as we chatted.  It was all so natural.  I’ve been trying to make friends but so often it seems forced.  This time I just kind of went with the flow and it worked.

I have a couple of individual friends but I’ve been craving a sense of community.  Our church is really too big to make good connections (I tried volunteering for the Lenten fish-fry cleanup, but nothing came of it) so I’m looking elsewhere.  While I was picking up my sling (ooooh, so beautiful…though the learning curve for a ring sling is proving to be quite steep for me) I snagged a card for a local ‘natural parenting’ group and another one for a babywearing group.  Whenever we’re out and I’m slinging everyone acts like they’ve never seen one before, so it kind of surprised me that there would be enough for a club.  I’m also hoping to get involved with Women for Peace.

We’ll see where it all goes. 🙂

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(Dis) engagement

Attic Man is going to scream when he sees the title of the post, but it’s so apt I’m keeping it. (I’ll also have him know that I’ll be using the Clever Title: Boring Title format for my dissertation, which I’m allowed to do whether or not he thinks it’s dumb. Hurumph.)

Over the years I’ve swung back and forth between a radical anti-capitalist orientation and an overwhelmed apathy. My objections to capitalism won’t be new to anyone who’s read boomerific for a while: the endless pursuit of profit at the expense of all else, the endless pursuit of individual material acquisition at the expense of all else, the emptiness of every gesture (where giving is just a roundabout way to receive—google “corporate philanthropy”), the bleeding of the earth’s resources, the growing poverty…the list keeps growing the longer I examine myself and the society I move and work in.

What I usually do when re-radicalized is typical of an ADDer. I obsess, reading and planning and thinking to the exclusion of everything else in my life, and do one of two things: either plan to intervene in an entirely untenable way, or become so overwhelmed by the options for intervention (alongside their futility) as to forget the project altogether. For example, several years ago, after becoming familiar with the problem of sweatshop labor here and abroad, I decided to go completely sweatshop-free. Completely. Some of you may be giggling right now, as well you should. Although Coop America’s site is comprehensive, the market is so flooded with unethically produced and traded goods, and the fairly traded ones are so scarce and expensive, that I was able to stick to it for a few weeks, max. The plan was flawed, theoretically, anyway: I was still participating in a capitalist system. Fair trade is awesome and grand and fantastic, but it is still a market-based endeavor. (I’m not sure what the alternatives are; these are things I’m still working out and will be for some time) At any rate, it fizzled out pretty quickly and I was back at Target in no time. As for being overwhelmed by the options and giving up? This happens to me on a monthly basis.

So I need a way to make incremental changes that I can incorporate into my life in order to begin to disengage from a capitalist frame of mind and way of life and move into engagement with a community. In order to do that I need to start thinking about changing my mindset before I can even begin to work on behavior and action. The other day I was thinking about how price-driven our economy is, how our demand for the lowest prices (fueled of course by low wages and lack of good benefits) drives the ‘race to the bottom’ as Charles Kernaghan has called it. I realized that I had been taught to shop based on price first, except when buying toilet paper, even in which case the lowest price non-generic was the purchase for the week. When there are two items of similar quality and features on the shelf (too often they’re exactly the same thing packaged for different markets, anyway) I was taught to grab the lower-priced one. I was thinking about how I might re-orient my criteria for making purchases to bring them more in line with my moral and ethical objections to late capitalism. To wit, I came up with a list of questions to ask myself before making a purchase. The questions act like a chain; if the answer is no, I stop. If it’s yes, I go to the next question.

Do I need it?

The answer to this question is usually no. However, there are some cases in which while technically the answer is no, the purchase of such an item can have benefits for people and the earth that justify it. For instance, we bought a good set of knives and found that we ate out at chain restaurants less often and consumed more vegetables. All of the sudden that huge order from the CSA was more manageable.

Do I have something else I can use instead? Can I make said item out of materials I already own?

Sometimes approximations fill the need just fine. Sometimes the modifications really stretch our creativity and cause us to grow in all sorts of ways. Although I found that I didn’t have the right sort of sheets to make my own sling, I gave it a whirl and in the process became more open to other ways of wearing the Snapper. It also taught me to take better stock of what I already have.

Can I buy the item used or trade something I no longer need for it?

Attic Man and I really wanted to work out but we didn’t want to join a gym (admittedly the decision was based on the affordability of the gym, not a social conscience). We wanted a more intense workout than a body-weight only workout could provide, so we found a used sporting-goods store and bought a pretty nice weight set and benches. I’m also seriously considering going back to thrift-shopping for my clothing, though it’s kind of hit-or-miss sometimes.

Can I buy it fair trade (within my budget)?

I had a really lovely morning, so lovely that it inspired me to write this post and to title it what I did. I stopped by a little local store, Baby Matters. I found, to my delight, that not only do they have slings for sale, but that the owner makes them (and brings her daughter to work, which means I can support a culture of valuing children and babies at the same time) and also sells fair-trade ones. I ended up combining the two, having her turn a HUGS sling into a ring sling. The fabric is gorgeous and I can’t wait to start using it. In the meantime we had an awesome conversation and I got to know her and her vision a little better. It’s a store that serves the community in a very real way, holding classes on breastfeeding, the local chapter of LLL, how to make your own baby food, natural childbirth, and so on. It’s a place where you can go to get connected. It’s a small enough place and specialized and local enough that conversation and connection is inevitable. I love that. It’s still a business but it’s a lot closer to my ideal than Babies ‘R Us is, by leaps and bounds.

If all else fails, then I go ahead to Target and get the thing and leave my guilty conscience at the door. I make note of the country of origin and buy it with mindfulness. It’s the best I can do.

Or is it? …

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Sleep

Remember the Snapper’s nice schedule? Well…it’s all gone to hell. People told me this would happen but it kind of knocked me off balance, and I think the Snapper, too. It was all my fault, anyway: I attempted to push him farther than he is ready for or will be any time soon, and it backfired big time.

In the meantime, though, I’ve learned a lot about the Snapper and even more about myself as a parent. I’ve learned that however much I swore I wouldn’t be one of those wimpy parents who can’t let their babies cry for even five minutes (oh, how little I really understood), I cannot let the Snapper cry. It’s not a matter of being wimpy. It’s that something way down in my gut won’t let me do it, and I’m deciding to listen to that. Intellectually I can also see that even if we do some version of cry-it-out later on down the road, he’s not even close to being emotionally or psychologically ready for it. He’s not secure enough yet–he doesn’t know that we will meet all of his needs with certainty. His cries are still worried and fearful.

I’ve learned that we will probably cosleep with our next child. I’ve spent the last week agonizing over whether or not to start it with the Snapper now but ultimately it’s a logistical nightmare. For starters, we have a pillowtop matress. It’s only a queen and we’re not small. The room is too small to accommodate the crib. I don’t want to sink a lot of money into a cosleeper that he will outgrow soon. I don’t want to get into constant night-nursing even if it is more convenient to nurse in bed. He’s made so much progress toward sleeping through the night (usually at least five hours, but often six or seven) that I don’t want to mess with. The list goes on…so although it would be wonderful it isn’t going to work with this child. He is still in the room adjoining ours (door open, crib next to the door…I’m a few feet away) so we can all hear and smell one another.

I’m making up for the loss of closeness by putting him in the wrap for all of his naps and for some of his wake time. Part of the reason things fell apart this week is that I tried to get him to nap by himself. He can sleep beautifully at night in his carseat but he’s a much lighter sleeper in the daytime unless he’s being held. So I tried it and he cried, and I cried, and our schedule got messed up, and he wasn’t sleeping enough, which made him cranky, and messed with night sleep. When I returned to it yesterday it felt amazing–all of this love and comfort surged through my body and he slept like a rock. There must be some kind of awesome hormonal release when you wear your baby. It was just what the doctor ordered, and very healing after our ordeal this week.

Nighttime has become an issue again now that he can roll over. We have some concern that he will tip over his carseat, so we decided to try the crib. Poor thing–he can’t handle all that space. When he has his partial wakings he thrashes around with nothing to let him know he won’t disappear into space. Last night was just like when he first came home. We were up almost every hour, with me nursing a fretful Snapper non-stop. So…tonight we’re trying a much more stable alternative: the laundry basket. It will give him the hemmed-in feeling he needs and is a tiny step toward being able to sleep in the crib without a prop. It’s OK that he needs a prop right now.

I’ve made myself sick all this week reading everything I could find on sleep. Everyone claims to have the magic bullet, and swears that the alternative will cause long-term damage to one’s child. I quickly became tired of under-researched (because really, how much GOOD data do we have on babies? no one experiments on them with good reason) albeit occasionally well-argued theories on baby sleep. At the end of the day I have only my instincts and observation of my own child. I’m going with what my baby needs. As for the camps and all they stand for, I’ll be content to refer to them to help me work out issues as they come up, but I’m not about to sell my soul to Ferber or Sears or Hogg or the APers.

10:20 and the Snapper is finally down in the quilt-lined laundry basket, pool snake under the crib matress for an incline. We’ll see how he does tonight.

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Cousins

Yesterday we took a day trip to meet the Snapper’s brand-new cousin, Banana Girl.  I can’t believe how light she is, or that the Snapper was ever that teeny tiny.  I’m so glad he has a cousin his very own age to grow up with.

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Three Months

Just like at six weeks, I’m getting ichy and ready for the next changes for me and the Snapper. We’ve successfully gotten him to sleep from 10-3 and 4-7 most nights; I’m taking a shower everyday; he can take two naps in the wrap while I keep chaos at bay; we take walks on the rare day it’s not snowing sideways; I’m off sugar and back on whole grains.   We haven’t met every goal I set for us at six weeks, but we’ve definitely moved out of the state of emergency and chaos that we lived in for the first weeks of his life.

New Goals for the Snapper:

1. Get to bed earlier.  We’re starting his nighttime routine at 6:30, as we always have, but we’re trying to get him to actually stay in bed after his 7 p.m. nursing.  So far our earliest night has been 8:30.  I want to keep at it until we make it to 7.  We’re still nursing to sleep (and holding until he’s in a deep state) because it works, and because he’s been that way since birth.  After we get him on the schedule we’d like to maintain through his first year we’ll work on self-soothing and the like.  One step at a time. (Kohana, I am ordering the Baby Whisperer in the meantime)

2. Take daytime naps in the crib (well, the carseat in the crib).  So far we’ve been able to get no more than an hour and a half from him.  I really do love to nap him in the wrap but it means I can’t exercise.  I used the wrap as a stepping stone to get him used to a schedule–not a rigid one, but a general one–and now that he is we can move him to the next stage.

Goals for me:

1. Do some dissertation work every day.  I’ve actually been doing well on this front, though not usually as well as I’d like.  When the Snapper’s nights even out and I’m not nursing for three hours at a stretch I’ll be able to be more consistent.  Right now I’m settling for as much as I can get done and leaving it at that.

2. Reach pre-pregnancy weight by summer and ideal weight by his first birthday, 35 pounds in total.

3. Reach out to new friends we’ve made recently and become more social.  So far I’ve had a couple nice friend dates but I’d like some more.

Overall, I have to say that three months is still challenging but it’s also an absolute joy.  This morning he woke up an hour early to nurse so I took him into bed for a while.  When I awoke an hour later he was looking at me, and as soon as my eyes landed on him he grinned from ear to ear.  Being the Snapper’s mother is heaven.

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