Thursday, April 28, 2011

Moving tragedies

At the end of our camp-style lunch break on day 2 of moving, she scooted herself allllllllll the way over to the bowl ... and we'd eaten all the food!

(And yes, that pointy silver thing is a knife, because Daddy wanted to see me freak out. Don't worry, I snatched it away as soon as his foot was off it. Hey, when your house is furniture-less, sometimes utensils end up on the floor.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How I became a believer in cry-it-out against my wishes

First of all, let me just say that I love love love my baby's bedtime routine. A few minutes before I put her down, I start talking about night-nights and getting her used to the idea. We put on some comfy clothes and change the diaper if it needs it, and we look in the bathroom mirror for a bit and talk about night-nights some more. Then we go into the bedroom, I pick up the lullaby glowworm (she has the blue one and it never even occurred to me that it was supposed to be a boy until I just now searched it on Amazon. Seriously? It has eyelashes.) and make up silly words to the songs it plays while we walk around the room. She chews on its ears (antennae? whatever they are) and sometimes hums along.  Then I put her in her bed and cover her up. She'll pull on her Winnie the Pooh toy (below, hanging right next to her head - you can barely see it) sometimes and listen to it sing Brahms' Lullaby, and maybe she'll whine but usually not, and then she'll go right to sleep.

Because I'm the perfect baby, obviously

But it wasn't always like this. Specifically, before we ever let her cry it out, it wasn't like this at all. In my pre-enlightenment days bedtime would sometimes turn me into a basket case, or else I would rely on nursing to put her to sleep. Which I knew was a bad idea every time I did it, because who wants to raise their child to seek food for comfort, but I did it anyway. And then one day I told Ryan my plight, and he volunteered to take her for bedtime.

Let me note here that we agreed before Heidi ever came around that consistency between the parents was the most important thing. If one of us disagreed with the way the other was doing it, we would still support the other during the situation, and discuss how we think it should have happened in private afterwards. Otherwise kids learn who is going to have a softer heart, and they triangulate. Also, let's note that I already was on board with the concept of leaving Baby in bed after she's been put down, because otherwise she'll just learn that if she screams long enough eventually we'll give in and she won't have to go to bed.

So Ryan put Heidi in bed when I didn't think she was sufficiently sleepy; that is, before she was absolutely falling asleep in his arms, which was the only way thus far I'd gotten her to sleep in her bed without beginning to throw a fit. I saw her go down in her bed wide awake and just waited for the screaming to commence. And it did.
Not a photo of the actual event

And there I was, stuck, not able to rescue my poor suffering baby because she'd been put to bed and we can't have her learning that bedtime isn't really bedtime. I think I was more upset than the baby. I was thinking of all the times I have insomnia, and how getting upset just made it worse and worse. I listened to her cry and thought that she wouldn't sleep for HOURS.

And then, seven minutes later, she was fast asleep. A miracle! It would have taken me longer to put her to sleep by nursing her!

The next night, it was five minutes.

The next night, it was not at all. Yesterday and today naps? Not a problem. She rubbed her eyes once and I put her in bed. She rolled over onto her side and went happily to sleep.

Wow. I'm a believer. For months now I've been laboring over bedtime, worrying about whether she was sleepy enough to go to bed, being convinced that she's almost asleep, putting her down only for her eyes to pop wide open and her mouth to scream, scooping her back up (fast enough that I could convince myself that I hadn't *really* put her to bed yet) and starting the process over again. Turns out, all I needed to do was let her cry for seven minutes for her to learn that bedtime really is bedtime, not time for another snack.

I know there are different views of bedtime and crying it out, and there are some mothers who think those who raise their babies differently from their view are being cruel to their babies or traumatizing them somehow. I wish we could share wisdom without partaking in mommy wars. Here's what I have to say to the trauma argument (which I used to believe): all I have to do is look at the little smile on my baby's face as she turns to go to sleep in her bed now to know that she is not traumatized by having been allowed to cry for a few minutes. Her bed is a place of safety and rest for her - I can see it all over her face when I put her down awake but ready to be sleepy. Now that she knows what is expected of her at bedtime, I can see that she finds a great deal of comfort in being put in her bed. Our few days of crying it out have made bedtime a very enjoyable and happy time for both of us, and there's no way you'll be able to convince me that the reason she is now so much more confident and peaceful is that she "gave up" on hoping that I'd rescue her. She knew I was in the room (she sleeps in our room), could hear our voices -- she knew she was safe and not alone, and she just had to learn that bedtime is bedtime.

Which leads me to one question: Why did I not do this before? In all honesty, though, I'm really not sure she was ready for it until now. She has begun to understand that she is a separate person from her parents, and I'm not sure this could have worked well until she did reach that developmental stage. I think the transition through cry-it-out was so easy for us because she was able to find some comfort in being alone. What do you think? Did I accidentally discover something accurate, that is, that six months is the right time to begin to work on sleeping-alone skills? Or do I just have a perfect baby?

I mean, other than the obvious. I might be a little biased.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Simple Foods, Local Foods

Recently Ryan and I have been trying to organize our life, from our possessions to what foods we buy. Some of this project I find a little ridiculous, because I'm more of a pick-the-mess-upper than a make-lists-of-where-things-goer, but even the parts that I find ridiculous I can usually see the use of afterwards. I mean, except for the card catalog of all the books we own, but what can I say? I married him. He claims it's useful for insurance purposes. You know, in case all the books burn but the cards survive.

The current project is food, though. Our goal is to eat locally and sustainably, and therefore we need 1) a menu based on 2) a set of recipes that we know we like and 3) what foods we can get locally and in season, as well as 4) a pantry list of the ingredients we need to keep on hand to be able to make our set of in-season recipes. Which has led to many discussions of which recipes to include. For instance, tomatoes grow almost too well in Oklahoma. My first instinct is to can lots and lots of pasta sauce. Ryan, while not being opposed to Italian food, has a different idea: he wants to focus more on foods that reflect our local culture.

Say what? I was under the impression that true local food consisted of Indian tacos and ... Indian tacos. And whatever other Native American food I've never tasted. Last time I checked - and correct me if I'm wrong - most of the food I'm familiar with was brought over across the Big Pond by (my) (European) ancestors. What cuisine is native to Oklahoma? Hamburgers? Cornbread? Chicken and dumplings? Blackberry cobbler? My mind wanders to imported food long before I've thought of enough dishes to constitute a menu. (NB: I'm totally in favor of learning to make Indian tacos, by the way. I still think Oklahoma cuisine is limited, though.)

I haven't found an answer to this question, so I would appreciate any insights.

In the meantime, I've recently and relatedly been inspired by very simple foods. Tonight we ate beef liver and onions, which was a first for us. We both enjoyed the simple meal with few ingredients, which nourished and satisfied us without weighing us down with fuss or extraneous tastes. We speculated on why neither of us ate this dish in our childhoods. For my part, I know my mom doesn't like the taste of liver, but I also was under the impression that there is a cultural connection to poverty. Ryan wasn't so sure, because the liver cost us as much per pound as ground beef would. We couldn't figure it out, especially because liver is so high in vitamins. There were times during my pregnancy when I would eat half a pound of chicken livers in a sitting, probably when I was deficient in something or other.

Anyway, our meal and discussion got me thinking about foods which our grandmothers surely grew in their gardens, but which have disappeared from our cuisine (or at least from the cuisine I've been exposed to) so entirely that I have to search the internet to find how to cook them, and even then I'm still not sure I'm doing it right. Eggplant. Cabbage. Turnips. Many kinds of squash. Someday I will boldly disregard all the recommendations I've ever read to only plant foods you know you'll eat, and purposefully plant foods I have no clue how to prepare, so I'll be forced to learn.

Which brings me to the tangentially related piece of news that we like a job, and we like a house! We'll find out next week if the job likes us too, and if it likes us then we'll find out whether any banks like us. The house we like is big enough for a very large family, in a nice neighborhood, on about a 3/4 acre lot, needs lots of cosmetic work but structurally sound and has the potential to be gorgeous, and is a foreclosure (read: cheap enough that I don't care what garish colors the walls are painted in or how bizarrely the light fixtures are wired).

Visions of edible landscaping are dancing in my head.

Time for gratuitous baby pictures!

We got some tiny baby chairs and a table for MeMe and Pop Pop's too, so Heidi and Ava can have tea parties!

Buried in a pile of diapers hot from the dryer

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lest we become complacent

I hope that someday we get to settle in somewhere for longer than our thus-far pattern of 3-6 months. This time of soaring food prices and economic instability (stock market plummeting while commodities are rising, anyone?) is not the best time to be looking for a new position or trying to move and start life over again. This was definitely not the most propitious set of years to be coming into adulthood.

At least we have a lead with another Children's Home that seems excited about our training and experience, where hopefully we will have a less intense schedule that will allow us to have a better family life. At least this place gave us the beginning of a career in which we can make a difference and help children have a better future. At least I no longer wonder what I want to do with my life.

To the girls I have to leave (I know you'll find this because I know how good you are at sneaking around blocked sites and firewalls): You are in my heart, and I love you. I still expect to celebrate your graduations and to cry at your weddings. My care for you does not depend on who signs my paychecks.

Mrs Mary Catherine

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

does meat start off saran wrapped?

This post brought to you by reason #5642 why I love my tiny laptop: nursing and typing simultaneously.

A week or two ago, a couple of my girls wanted to make a baked potato dish for lunch. I thought, "Great! We'll heat up the lamb stew in the freezer and have potatoes for a side!" Very Irish, right? Except then I told them that it was *lamb* stew.


"I can't eat that! Lambs are cute!" "I'm going to throw up!" "There's LAMB in this??" "I have a hard enough time eating beef!" "I'm going to throw up!" "Can I just eat fruit?" "I'm going to throw up!" (The threat of throwing up is a recurring theme.)

Oh man, I was so tired of hearing that they didn't like this or that food that we'd given them. And this was really delicious stew, courtesy of the lovely people who package it at the Food Pantry. Yum.

But here was what really got me: "I have a hard enough time eating beef and knowing a cow had to die. I can't eat this stew since I know lambs had to die for it."

I wasn't mad at this point. That's not spoiled-ness. It's actually a really interesting question, and one that I considered a lot in my brief stint with vegetarianism. Here's what I said:

"You should know where your food comes from! You get the nutrition you need for life from the lives of other creatures. Even if all you eat are plants and seeds, those plants had to be picked to feed you, and those seeds gave their ability to germinate in order for you to eat. It doesn't matter if animals are cute or ugly; they still gave their lives to nourish you. That's just the way of life, and you should be connected to it instead of separated from it and in denial. The Native Americans have a beautiful custom when they hunt of thanking the animal for its life that will give the hunter life. Don't pretend you live in a vacuum or that your meat started off saran-wrapped. Embrace what it means to be a living creature. Embrace being human. Give the things you eat the respect of knowing what they are, and don't shut your eyes."

Another girl: "Well, animals that eat other animals are sinning, so if you have to eat other things to live, you should just starve yourself to death."

Me: "Ok, you obviously don't think that because you're not starving yourself to death, so I have to believe you just want to argue."

But I think I actually got through to the girl who had the real concern that seemed to bother her conscience and hopefully I helped her have a healthier view of food. It just kills me that these girls don't know where their food comes from, and worse, that they're afraid to know where their food comes from.

So this summer I think we will have some field trips to Farmer's Markets and to local farms. Hopefully we can help them understand that meat doesn't come from the grocery store; it comes from animals. Vegetables don't come from the produce section; they come from farms.

Links of note:
Oklahoma Food Coop
Tahlequah Farmer's Market

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fair Isle Sweater of Doom

This was supposed to be Ryan's Christmas present. When I started it in August, four months seemed like a reasonable amount of time.

Except now it's April. And to make it worse, all I've gotten done since Christmas is enough sleeve to cover a shoulder. Between August and December I got the entire torso done. Three months later I've added a fourth of a sleeve. Here's why:

I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but there are four colors in this sweater: dark brown, dark gray, light gray, and cream. That means there are four skeins of yarn attached to this sweater at all times. You can see them in the picture.

 Now imagine the fact that yarn tangles, and four skeins tangle four times quicker than one skein. 

Now imagine the fact that with every round the sweater turns but the yarn doesn't, thus causing twists.

Now notice the four double pointed needles on the sleeve, and imagine them getting caught in tangled yarn every time I finish one needle and move to the next.

Here's why the torso went so fast: it was knitted on circular needles (not double pointed), with many repeats of the pattern before the sweater had to turn and twist up the yarn. The needle-catching and yarn-tangling factors were MUCH less.

Here's why the sleeves are going so slow: all circumstances are conspiring against me to tangle my yarn on itself and among my needles as much as possible. Which leads to one conclusion: I am NOT having fun. And not-fun projects tend to sit in the knitting bag and come out once every two weeks at most. And projects that come out once every two weeks take a very long time to finish.

But this sweater was supposed to be a Christmas present. (GUILT) For my husband. (GUILT) And it's not done yet. (GUILT) And all I want is to knit light and summery cotton lace things. But I can't because the sweater's not done. (GUILT) In fact, I kind of miss knitting in general, I've been avoiding this project so long. (GUILT) So, prompted by massive amounts of knitting GUILT, I'm trying to finish this sweater. 

Please send prayers/positive thoughts this way. My emotional sphere is currently consumed by frustration at the spinners of Lion's Brand Fisherman's Wool (which they don't deserve) and impatience to run my fingers through the smoothness of cotton lace-weight. Oh, and GUILT, too. And resolutions that future fair-isle sweater designs will consist of a colorwork yoke, at most. And while we're at it, let's not forget guilt at the fact that I should be delighted to make a beautiful sweater for my husband.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cute things my baby does

And now for your viewing pleasure...

she'll sing that way all through the grocery store, too
Rolling over!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

how I got conned into hiking 20 miles

That's right, 20. Twenty. Miles. In one day.

My husband insists that he didn't con me into anything, and that I wanted to do it just as much as he did. In his defense, he's telling the truth. In my defense, I really didn't know how far 20 miles is. See, I am NOT an experienced hiker. He is; I'm not. So he should have known better. Thus far my side of the story.

The conversation went something like this: (after a 5-mile hike with the Methodist Home girls) "Hey, this park has a full day hiking trail! Wanna do it?" "Sounds fun! We can train for the Appalachian Trail, whenever we have the chance to do it!" Right.

We wanted to be on the trail at 7 am so we could finish by 7 pm. The park people said it took 12 hours to do the trail. Honeybunch said it wouldn't take that long. Of course, he wasn't taking into account, you know, stopping and eating. The park people also said it was an 18 mile trail, but our iPhone GPSes beg to differ. THEY say we hiked 20 miles in 12 1/2 hours. Take that, park people.

So my inexperienced hiker self dragged my butt out of bed at 5:30 Monday morning so we could be done before dark. Life with a baby is never as efficient as we plan, so we didn't make it to the trailhead until 8 am, and I blame it all on her. She's babbling to me right now and maintaining her innocence, but don't believe her. She's devious behind those sweet blue eyes.

8 am: Loading out of the car, signing in at the trailhead, wrapping up with the homemade Moby, realizing that it's a lot chillier than I'd expected, slipping on the traffic-crossing-guard-yellow pants that Honey was prescient enough to sneak into my pack.

Ready to go!

He started herbing. The red and blackness that's off the path and probably getting poison ivy? Him.

One of the plant photos he captured. I continue to be amazed at the picture quality of the iPhone.

Stopped for a snack. I brought the bonnet that I'd forgotten during our Saturday 5-mile hike, and would you know it? It was cloudy all day Monday.
11 am: this sign said "Mary's Cove" once upon a time. Now it says Mar V." At this point we could have turned and taken the shorter loop, if we had been smarter.

After the point of no return, when we had to do the full loop or turn around and backtrack, the path got significantly harder to follow. At first we joked that we were more adventurous than most people, since hardly anyone had been on the path to trample it down. Then the blazes got hard to see and carelessly painted, and we started joking about the obscenities the blazers must have muttered as they blazed the trail way the heck out there. Then the blazes turned orange and we joked about how they'd run out of blue paint. Then it became clear that we weren't more adventurous than most and the blazers weren't silly; we were just dumb for coming this far.

 12 pm
7 miles in, according to the sign, but it was closer to 8 1/2 miles in. Feeling good! That smile is still genuine. Baby's asleep. My clothes are hideous but warm.

Ryan was already feeling better than me at this point. This trend continued for the rest of the hike.

Then began a period of misery from about mile nominally-9 but really-10 1/2 until the end, when I realized that we should have taken the short loop and been back already. It was my decision to do the long loop (aided by the fact that I knew Ryan would be disappointed if we didn't), but that didn't make life any better when I reached the halfway point and realized I was exhausted. Lessons from my dad began trickling back into my mind: "Stop before you're tired because you're going to have to walk all the way back," etc. Well, I was tired, and "all the way back" was a good 10 miles. My ankles were tired from trying not to trip and stumble over rocks, and my knees were killing me, and I was praying to God that the loop back would be on easier terrain.

Buuuuut the terrain got more difficult. The side we came up on hugged the lake, and while there were some slopes and rocks to navigate, the incline was not too far from level. The side that took us back wound up into the hills around the lake, and after climbing to the crest of hills and looking over cliffs we found ourselves plunging into valleys, with the path sometimes consisting of more tree roots holding the soil together than actual soil, and crossing mossy rivulets before we started the process over again.

And I was crying. Do it yourself before you judge me. Rather, try having a baby six months ago and avoiding all physical exercise from the time you got pregnant until, oh, now. And then try it. Oh, and make sure to strap said whiny baby onto your front and take her along. And then judge me for crying.

Also, the baby? was SO OVER the Moby Wrap at this point, and I can't say I blame her. She'd had to sit cuddled up to my sweatyness all morning, and she was going to have to do it all afternoon too, and nobody had even let her get out and walk because, well, she couldn't.

Some of the rock formations were very impressive. This piece of granite(?) jutted up from the ground all alone in a field. Ryan's smile is still genuine.

My smile, the one you're too far away to see, is NOT genuine.

Ryan: Photo op! Do you want a picture too? Me: NO. I want to go HOME.

Mile 15 (16): and then we got to this sign.

After the caution sign, the path decided that zig-zagging down hills was overrated, and that trees growing out of the cliff face were sufficient to get you down safely. Ok, that's an exaggeration. But not much of one. I definitely could not have gotten down an incline that steep if I hadn't had trees to hang on to every step of the way. Naturally, we didn't take pictures to prove it.

But then this was at the bottom. Ryan kept saying that it was all worth it. I kept contradicting him. But looking at the pictures today, they definitely look a lot prettier. As you can see, we're seriously racing the sun at this point.

7 pm: we reached the swinging bridge, which the park people claim is 15 miles in and 3 miles from the head, but which we calculated to be 16 3/4 miles in and 3 1/4 miles from the head.

9 pm: we reached the trailhead. It's a good thing you can't see my face in this picture, because I look like death warmed over. The baby is already in her carseat, rejoicing that she's not strapped to me anymore.

Ryan's smile is STILL genuine. He's almost as glad as I am to be done, though.

Today I know that the only way I'll be able to walk in time to go back on duty is to do some major yoga for the rest of our time off. Mountain Pose is my goal for the day.

Ryan wants to take the girls on the shorter loop this Saturday. I think I'll let him deal with the mutiny.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

She's a girl!

This morning I held up two dresses to let the pumpkin pick. Which one did she grab and begin to eat?

The brand new one she'd never worn, of course.