Thursday, November 5, 2009

Words of Wisdom

N is a late talker. That is, at nearly 20 months old, he doesn't talk. He started off on the right foot, saying "mama" at a precocious 6 months old, and quickly moved on to "cat" and "car". But soon after that he dropped all but mama, and only used that in the most distressing of circumstances. T and I have been patiently holding our breath, examining each sound that comes from N's mouth (few and far between though they are) for possible linguistic meaning. But after all this time, we have given up and decided to just let nature take its course. My main concern for N is not his lack of speech, but the communication difficulties caused by a lack of speech. With me, every slight sound and gesture is quickly understood, because are very tuned in to each other. With strangers - or rotating daycare workers - it's not that easy.

So imagine my surprise today when the little guy came out with not one, not two, but three brand new words all in the span of a few minutes. "What wonderful news!" must be your thought right now. But hold that thought, because the new words? They were in Chinese. No, I don't have any problem with N learning Chinese. In fact, I'd be thrilled in he showed an aptitude for foreign language, and Chinese would certainly be a useful one. But couldn't he learn his native language first? You know, the one his mother and all his caregivers speak? It might make things a bit easier on all of us. Then again, when has my beautiful little roughneck ever worried about what's easiest.

I'm thinking soon I'll want to make some decisions. Do I want to encourage this, or cut it off until he learns English? He's not going to learn very much Chinese just from watching Ni Hao Kai-Lan, so further instruction will require stepping away from the TV and into a classroom, or at least some workbooks and DVDs. And at 20 months old, is he too young for this, however informal the education might be? If he truly has a flair for languages, or even just for the one language, I hate to cut him off and let a crucial window pass. Tell me mamas, if any of you are out there reading, what would you do?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Marching on...

My summer off has been bittersweet. With our finances in a shambles, we were unable to take a vacation, or even many day trips. Fortunately we live on a park, so we made up for it by spending almost every day playing outside. N is probably too young for The Met, anyway. We had a lot of fun together and came out feeling somewhat refreshed, but it ended all too soon.

Now the weather is changing, and daily life is changing too. We're well into the school yer, and this year all three of us are at school - T as a teacher, me as a student, and N as a brand new daycare child. The transition has been tough on all three of us. T is teaching SAT prep classes in the evening this year, and subbing during the day. I have my heaviest class load yet, and several extracurricular activities. N is in daycare twice a week, all day long, and with father-in-law the other days. I feel like we never see each other any more, and I can already feel the toll it's taking on our connection as a family. N is a different baby already - less relaxed and smiley, more likely to scream and cling, less interactive and interested in his world. But I have no choices left in this. I have dropped him down to as few days of daycare as possible, and he's still becoming increasingly listless.

Two and a half months. Only two and a half more months until my hardest semster ends. In mid-December we can reconnect, N can leave daycare, and maybe T can take a week off so we can spend some family time. I look back on our empty summer days now and see all the opportunities missed. Could I have taken N to the playground more? Should we have skipped that TV show and played a game together instead? Maybe I could have run those errands another day, a day when the sun wasn't shining and the park wasn't calling to us to come explore. But those days are over, and I missed those chances. It's time to live this day, to make sure we don't miss any of today's chances. It's time to go grab N, give him a snuggle, and play a game. Opportunity calls.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Around the world in 80 clicks

For an explanation of this post, see here.  Then join the game!

Five things I love about being a mother:

1) I get to buy all of the games and toys that I wanted, but didn't have, as a child.  For N, of course. *wink*

2) When I come home from a long day in class, exhausted and hungry, there is always a smiley little face waiting to welcome me back home.

3) The smell and sound and feeling of a warm, sleepy, perfect and tiny body next to mine at night fills me with a languorous euphoria.  There's nothing like sleeping curled up with your baby.

4) Everything old is new again.  Sometimes I feel like I'm starting over, experiencing the world for the first time, but through his eyes.

5) I have an excuse to play endlessly with my camera.

So there you are.  Heavy, light, and in between.  Now go play!  Find out whether the experience of motherhood is similar for women in Sweden, India, Australia, Ireland, and Bolivia.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


My father-in-law is a bit of an artistic genius.  He draws, paints, and among the many other crafts he is proficient in, he restores old trunks.  He has several at his house, and in the years I have known my husband I have seen him restore several more, usually those belonging to friends and family.  I never really expected to end up with one of my own, because my husband already has one.  A few weeks ago that changed, when I walked into FIL's house to see the sweetest little trunk he has ever brought home, and knew I had to claim it.  I told him right away that that was my trunk, had to be my trunk, and he agreed.  But rather than restoring it for me, we'd do it together, so that we could spend some quality time, and he could pass on his craft.

They're not much to look at when he first brings them home.  A century of wear and tear means scuffed wood and torn paper, scratches and bad paint jobs.

The tray is a total loss, so that will be thrown away.  The first step is to remove the hinges and take off the top.  Then, piece by piece, the hardware is stripped from the whole trunk, starting with the lid.  One the hardware is off, the support slats and tin covering can be removed.

It's a painstaking process.  When the trunk was nailed together, the pieces were against a block so that the nails would hit the block and curl over, locking them in.  Trying to pull them out would be like ripping out a barbed fishhook, and would destroy the wood.  So, each nail needs to be located under the paper lining and cut with a Dremel tool.  Then a hammer and spike are used to drive the nail back through the wood, so that it can be pulled out by the head.  Once the nails are gone, the hardware can be removed.  More nails much be cut before the wood slats and tin plates are taken off.

And that's it.  Underneath all the plating is a bare wooden trunk.  

But we did find one hidden treasure: a patent stamp from the year the trunk was built.

I'm planning to post pictures and updates on the trunk as we go along.  So far we're only partially done with stripping it, and I expect it to be a long process.  It'll be a lot of fun, though, so if you're curious about how it's done or what it will look like at the end, keep checking back.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

1000 words

N's birthday party was on the 21st, and I handed our old reliable point and shoot camera to my father-in-law, the family artist.  The bad news is, he dropped it while the lens was extended, effectively totaling it.  The good news is, we now have a lovely Nikon D60 DSLR to replace it.  Considering how long I've been coveting the DSLRs, I've shown remarkable restraint in my photo taking.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Where has the time gone?

A year ago today, the love of my life came into the world. I never knew a baby could be so perfect - delicate and beautiful, with big, blue eyes like his father's.

He grew so quickly, though. No matter how many times you hear "enjoy it now, they grow fast", it's still a bit shocking how fast they actually do grow.

It's been so amazing watching him turn into an independent and intelligent little person. I thank whatever Gods are listening that we decided to babywear, co-sleep, and breastfeed. I wouldn't trade all the days and nights of cuddling skin to skin for anything. I know these days won't last forever, and I cherish them.

My baby is becoming a toddler. He's so close to walking, and talking, and making the leaps and bounds out of baby days and into childhood. Every day he is a new person. With each milestone he hits, I mourn a little for the baby he was, because I will never see that baby again. But at the same time, I look forward each day to meeting the child he is becoming. Every day really is a new adventure, and I welcome it with open arms.

Happy Birthday N!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Spring greening...part 1

The snow is melting, finally, and the trees are beginning to form those first tentative buds.  The past week has been sunny, dry, and relatively warm, in the mid-40s.  It's time to start cleaning and greening.

I aspire to crunch, but being a modern girl and a city dweller, it doesn't come naturally to me.  I harbor a secret love for the smell of Clorox, the squeak of a Windex-covered paper towel, and the convenience of those little wipes in a plastic can.  What woman doesn't love a freshly sanatized house, and what parent doesn't understand the attraction of swipe-and-toss cleaning supplies?  But in my heart of hearts I believe that we all should lessen our impact on the world.  I also cringe at the thought of N crawling on freshly bleached floors.

Right now T and I are not doing so well with the whole "green" thing.  Yes, we breastfeed, cloth diaper, and I use family cloth in my bathroom.  But we use mainstream soaps and cleaning products for the most part, and we probably go through a roll of paper towels every day, thanks in no small part to N.  So, my main project for this spring is to switch to natural shampoo, soap, and house cleaning supplies.  I'd like to get as close to eliminating our paper towel use as possible, and I'd like to fnd new homes for all of our old junk rather than just tossing it.

First on the agenda:  paper towels.  The best way I can think to replace them is to buy cleaning rages, and keep them in a box on my kitchen counter.  I could buy fabric and hem it, but I don't own a sewing machine (and would have nowhere to put one if I did).  Maybe cheap wash cloths from Target would do?  Something like this would be nice, but I balk at the idea of paying $5 for a single sheet.  Back in the day, my mother kept a stack of old Gerber flat diapers for miscallaneous cleaning tasks.  Maybe that's an idea wirth looking into.

Next up: natural cleaning.  Now, I know some people swear by Seventh Generation goods.  I'm sure they're perfect for some, but not for us.  They're awfully expensive, and I haven't found that they work extremely well.  I want to do right by Mother Earth, but I also want to do right by N, and having a dirty house isn't an option.  I like Method products, but I'm not sure they're really all that natural.  Maybe now is the time to experiment with baking soda and vinegar.  The same goes for replacing shampoo and soap (baking soda), those lovely little wipes (tea tree oil and vinegar), and Tilex (baking soda and a little backbreaking labor).

In the pursuit of green, I'm hoping I will also find my floor and furniture.  De-cluttering is tough when you have a little one around, but it badly needs doing in the Earthy house.  I tend to forget to fold the laundry, thinking that time with N is more important than an unwrinkled shirt.  While this is true, there's also a line, and we're toeing it.  It's time to step back.

Check back soon, dear readers, for Spring Greening part 2.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wool over my eyes

Have you ever heard that using cloth diapers saves money?  I'm sure it's often true.  Certainly, buying a small selection of cloth diapers, which you can wash and reuse a seemingly infinite number of times, should cost significantly less than constantly buying disposables.  Even though most cloth is size specific, and must be replaced with a larger size as the child grows, the savings should still be con considerable.  In most cases I'm sure it is considerable.  Unless you start using longies.

Longies are knitted or crocheted woolen pants that are used in place of a diaper cover.  That is, you put the child in an absorbant (usually cotton) diaper, then put the longies over top of this.  Because longies are treated with lanolin, they keep moisture in while still allowing air to flow in and heat to flow out.  Brilliant, right?  And though they tend to be a bit expensive ($60-80 is the average price, in my experience), you really only need two or three of them, as they can go weeks between washings due to the amazing properties of wool.

But as you descend deeper into the world of longies, you begin to see that you have entered a clever trap.  A cute, colorful, time and money consuming trap.  Longies are just the start, the gateway drug, if you will.  Next come shorties (for summer), soakers (for nights), skirties (for the girly-girls), interlock pants (for the track suit look), and even frilly little knitted capri pants.  You realize that each of these items (for the sake of brevity I will continue to use "longies" for all) comes in an endless variety of sizes, colors, shapes, and patterns.  There are recycled longies, made out of old adult sweaters.  There are longies with stripes, landscapes, symbols, animals, flowers, and even faces on their behinds.  You can even get longies that look like tights.  Longies can cost anywhere from $5 for a recycled pair, to close to $300 for a very popular and intricate design.  Even buying used, as I always do, it would not be difficult to drop $400 or more in single day on just a few pairs of longies.

So, as you might have guessed, I've been doing a little shopping.  N is growing out of his current stock of covers, and I'm making the switch almost entirely to wool.  Even buying used and mostly recycled, I have already spent $140 on longies and shorties.  For a frugal (to be charitable) soul like me, that's quite a hit, but I have two shorties, three longies, and a night cover coming my way.  Hooray for fluffy mail!  As addictions go, I suppose this one isn't a bad one to have.  Now if only I could stop window shopping for baby carriers...

I don't mean to discourage anyone from trying cloth diapers, of from using wool covers.  Cloth truly is an expensive or as inexpensive as you want it to be.  I only want to warn those of you who might be contemplating cloth, that this is an addiction you might never cure yourself of!  In any case, I highly recommend that every mama (or daddy) thinking of starting up with cloth register over at Diaper Swappers.  Cloth diapering mamas treat their cloth like gold, so it's easy to buy used, but nearly pristine, cloth and accessories of all sorts there.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A new year, a fresh start

This will be a year of many changes, almost as many as last year.  In 2008, we moved to a new home, had N, T started a career change, and I finished my A.A. degree.  This year N turns 1, I start substitute teaching, and finally begin my doula training.  I have my workshop with DONA on the consecutive weekends this month.  I'm barely a week away from my first day, and very excited.  I have been interested in the process of normal birth since long before my pregnancy, so I'm very pleased to be taking steps towards helping other women achieve it.  I also hope, of course, that having a mother who is a doula will help teach N that birth is not an illness, and that it is a natural and beautiful part of life.

But the news isn't all good.  My DONA workshops are just the start of my time away from N.  While completing my A.A., I was able to either bring him to class, or take evening classes so that T could be in charge while I was away.  Now that I'm leaving community college and heading to a university, and to a double major plus honors minor, I'm beginning to see that child care is going to be an issue.  I have always felt strongly that I want to be a stay-at-home mom to my children, at least until they are old enough to attend school.  My heavy schedule at the college, however, is not going to allow this.  I'm scrambling for a solution to our child care problem, and at the same time I'm mourning the loss of my time with N, and of my dream of being a stay-at-home parent.  I have to weigh N's needs now - a young baby who still primarily nurses, and who is very attached to his mama, and in need of her attention - with my need to finish school soon, and our future familial and financial needs.  There are no easy answers, and my heart hurts at the thought of the changes that are about to take place in N's life, and in mine.

Every night, after N falls asleep, I spend a little extra time cuddling him, stroking his hair, and enjoying a few precious moments to gaze in wonder at what I have made.  Already so big and strong, he changes rapidly each and every day, and I know soon I will not be around to see all of those changes.  Will I miss his first steps?  His first word?  How many of his smiles will I never see?  How much of his delightful laughter will warm the heart of a day care worker, instead of his mama, who so desperately needs that warmth?  I find myself mourning for the missed moments before they have even occurred.

Tomorrow, I think I will leave my laptop closed.  The books and magazines I read in bits and snatches throughout the day will stay in their stack.  Tomorrow I think I'll take N for a drive, find a nice park, and introduce him to all of the bushes and trees and birds and squirrels who live there.  I will roll in the snow with him, laugh with him, and leave with as many photos and wonderful memories as I can.  The time really does go by like a blur, they really do grow faster than I ever imagined, and each moment should be treated like the precious gem that it is.  By the time he's grown, I want to have a fortune in these gems, so I'd better start saving for now for the rainy days ahead.