Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mama Bean feels her thumb turning green, it must be Spring!

When we moved to the Prairie Valley City, we knew we wanted to grow our own vegetables. This would require a sufficiently large yard, which is fairly easy to find here. You wouldn't think that, to hear PVC residents tell it. They complain about how small 50x100 (or more) city lots are. I hate to think what they'd say about the 40x80 lot we left behind in Cowtown. Every time I look into the yard of our 50x120 lot here, I feel an abundance of lawn. In fact, I call it my laaaaaaaaaaaaawn.

The previous owner grew a variety of perennial flowers - beautiful lilies, peonies, and hostas. The latter do not thrive in Cowtown's drier climate, which is just one example of the relative fertility difference between the two locales. My impression, growing up, was that growing vegetables took a lot of work, especially things like tomatoes. They needed water and pampering and special houses and backbreaking, heartbreaking labour. In this province, that just didn't seem to be the case. Put a seed in the nutrient-overloaded soil and leave it alone. This area is wet enough to avoid much additional watering. We were super excited to take advantage of these glorious conditions.

We constructed a 4x12 raised bed in our yard, with plans to build two more when we could afford them. Then our neighbour told us we could join the Community Horicultural Society, which operates community plots about ten blocks away from us. He has been a member for over 30 years - he was totally our in, smoothed the way for us to get a choice plot of our own. 30x60 - it's more square footage of growing space than our house, for only $25/year plus $8 for the society membership.

Last summer was a terrible growing season. Cold spring, with a fast thaw, a late final frost the first weekend of June, and a strange combination of flooding but not much precipitation through June, the crucial month of sprouting when extra water would have actually been helpful. Then constant unremitting rain from July to August. It was a tough season for n00bs to be learning how to garden, but learn we did. We even harvested some vegetables!Things we won't grow again (this year, at least):
  • radishes (too spicy, wormy)
  • asian watermelon radishes (super wormy, taste gross)
  • turnips (not for our palates)
  • garlic (didn't grow, fall-planted sets would be better, garlic greens are delicious beyond belief)
  • scarlet runner beans (didn't bloom well, and we didn't eat them)
  • mesclun (turns out Papa Bean is a lettuce wimp, doesn't like anything too bitter or flavourful, must choose mild lettuces)
  • watermelon (melons do grow here, short season varieties, but the seedling we started early froze, and the direct-sown plants didn't have enough time or heat to flower, let alone fruit)
  • broccoli (our seedlings froze, not enough time for direct-sown plants to make good heads, what grew was bitter)
  • cauliflower (seedling froze, direct-sown plants didn't get anywhere)
  • corn (tiny ears, not tasty, poor season last year, nutritionally demanding, not worth it)
  • spaghetti squash (Papa Bean didn't like the taste, not as versatile as other squash)
Things we will grow again:
  • beets (yummy sweet, good for Bean)
  • onion sets (didn't grow very big, fall-planted sets would be better, but very tasty)
  • carrots (primarily imperator varieties this year, Nantes types are not as successful in our clay soil, purple carrots are fun to grow)
  • potatoes (not many harvested per plant, but the potato beetles were a scourge last year, will be more aggressive with them this year, probably red and yellow varieties)
  • peas (sugar snap, the kind with an edible pod)
  • bush beans (green or yellow wax like last year, and maybe a more exotic variety)
  • lettuce (not leaf lettuce again, hearting varieties like a Bavarian summertime or buttercrunch)
  • spinach (Papa Bean doesn't like it, I love it, hopefully Bean will too)
  • cucumbers (grow like gangbusters here, can't wait for more)
  • yellow zucchini (mild flavour, thin skinned, amazing in baked goods)
  • tomatoes (mostly snack varieties this year, maybe Early Girl for canning/freezing, Papa Bean doesn't eat them raw, only in sauces/salsa, so I'm going to put more in jars this year)
  • peppers (did surprisingly well last year, will try some sweet and some chile/banana plants again)
  • thyme, sage and basil (thyme and sage dried well, great on roasts, didn't harvest basil early enough, will make pesto this year)
Things we are growing for the first time:
  • soybeans (edamame)
  • giant pumpkin (another hobby for Papa Bean, his goal is a 100 lb squash this year)
  • cantaloupe (better for our climate than watermelon, will start very early and keep in the raised bed at home, which will have warmer soil)
  • cabbage
  • chard (our garden neighbour gave us some to try, and I loved it, hopefully Bean will too)
  • butternut and acorn squash
  • cilantro (if I see plants at a good price)
  • mint (in particular, a chocolate mint variety that smells delicious)
We have some homemade compost and sheep manure to spread for the squashes and cantaloupe in the raised bed at home. These are heavy feeders, and the melon will need extra water, plus the warmer soil will encourage them. We intend to trellis one side of the bed for the squash to climb. We will also try a weed guard fabric, which serves a double purpose of heating the soil surface.

We did not amend the soil in the community plot at all last year, just wanted to see what it was capable of unaided, as it were. This year we'll add sheep manure for nutrients, peat for moisture control and to deal with the clay, plus a mineral product called clay buster sold by a local greenhouse. Papa Bean tilled the dirt by hand last year, but we will get it motor tilled this year, to help incorporate the additions. Also, going slightly less organic than last year, we will probably kill the crab grass patch in the middle of our plot with Round Up, several weeks before we start seeding. This stuff is impossible to eradicate by hand, and I hope we only have to use the herbicide one or two years. Anyway, that was a bunch of boring detail to document, in essence, that I'm super excited about our garden this year!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mama Bean doesn't understand why nursing apparel must be so expensive

Puberty beat me with the Boob Stick. I fell out of the Boob Tree and hit every branch. In the Dictionary of Colloquialisms, the entry for "well-endowed" is illustrated with my girls. Their names are melon-related: Honey and Dew.

I can speak of these things (relatively) unabashedly because my breasts have been repurposed. Apparently, they must be reclad in purpose-specific garments. Almost six months in, and I've bought one such garment, for almost $100. This is not especially more money than a normal bra might cost, particularly for the so-called hard to fit. Nor is it as much money as some spend on a complete wardrobe's worth of such garments. I have bought one, using my entire budget for these things, and it will have to do.

I may have already mentioned I didn't even wear a bra for the first two or three weeks of Bean's life. I had some (horribly) mistaken notion that it was bad for my nipples to be properly encased. Nursing pads were received into my home like manna. They saved my sanity, my breastmilk encrusted t-shirts, and my drop-bespeckled floor (which remains so bespeckled to this day. Let's not dwell on it.) But, I didn't feel capable of going to the Special Bra Store. At that point, I had just started using stairs again, let alone dressing in civilian clothes, or driving. Driving! And you have to make an appointment to be fitted at the Special Bra Store. An appointment was an Impossibility of the Highest Order. I mean, I didn't know when Bean would sleep, or eat, or pee, or poo, or neeeeeeeeed meeeeee, how could I appoint a time with any sort of certainty that I'd be available, let alone orchestrate my dressing, driving, and punctual arrival to said appointment? It is not even a little bit of an exaggeration to say this trip was one of the most difficult achievements of my Delirious Early Days. (For shame, the things us privileged women complain about. I'm not whining, I swear!)

The salesperson did not appreciate my efforts. She no doubt has a wealth of experience with nursing women, she asked when I had nursed last, how full my breasts felt, etc. But she was brusque. To my fragile, addled, Delirious mind, she was almost rude. But she knew my size. And she had a nursing bra in my size! (Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles....and now that song is stuck in my head. Awesome.) It was $100. I knew it would be $100. It still felt like a lot of money.

I invest in my bras. It's whatever, my cross to bear, I have to do it, it's cool. I'm used to it. But a nursing bra, while specifically functional for one purpose, is otherwise less functional than a normal bra would be. For one thing, it can't be underwire, because this will encourage mastitis (the scourge of breastfeeding women everywhere) so it can't support Honey or Dew as they are accustomed to being supported. Secondly, the straps unclip, in order to open the dealy for feeding time, but this creates a weak point at a fairly key stress point of the whole apparatus, and my bra for some reason is prone to spontaneously detaching. When I'm working. On a patient. And suddenly I have the distinct sensation one of my girls is no longer suitably corralled. It's not that a patient could tell this through my clothes or anything, it's just the sensation... it unnerves me. And I can't do anything about it until I'm done with that appointment and can be alone to reach unceremoniously down my shirt and reattach everything.

There is no graceful way for me to do this. I have seen the Lulu-mamas at breastfeeding group who make unhooking and rehooking their nursing apparel look sexy. It's like watching a beautiful foreign creature on a safari, I have no idea how they do it. I dream of being so capable. This dream will not come true.

I couldn't bring myself to spend another $100 on another bra, so I removed the underwire from two of my regular bras to wear around the house. They are serviceable, but I do have to halfway undress myself at feeding times. This doesn't work in the Public Arena, so I reserve my dear nursing bra for those situations. It took awhile to get the hang of it. There are extra strappy bits that are supposed to keep the main strap on your shoulder after you've unhooked the cup part, but these extra strappies are really loose, so the darn thing falls off my shoulder anyway. This was initially frustrating enough for me to want to give up on the whole enterprise, but I got over it. Because with a nursing bra, I only have to lift my shirt and unclip the doodad, I don't have to pull my arm out of my sleeve and slide half my bra off. And I spend enough time driving around in civilian clothes to public places to understand how this is beneficial. So we love the nursing bra now, and it only took six months. Just in time for Bean to start solids!

In retrospect, yes I should have bought a nursing bra before giving birth. But the baby-pundits say you can't be sure how much your breast size will change. So I waited for them to get even bigger (good grief) except they didn't really. Obviously, since I spend most of my time in de-wired pre-pregnancy bras. So I could have saved myself a bunch of drippy drippy trouble by getting a good bra before the baby came. That magical time when I could go shopping unencumbered by a baby bucket, or without orchestrating Papa Bean's supervision, and didn't have to strategize my excursion to fit between feedings. (I was going to call them halcyon days, then looked up the origin of this phrase, and discovered it is inappropriate in this instance. Learn something new every day, etc.)

Friend L insists nursing tanks are the way to go, this brand in particular, as the top of the tank is an actual bra in actual bra sizes. (And because the site has regular sales. They are only available via interwebs in the Prairie Valley City.) The benefit is that you don't have to hike up your shirt to unhook the bra, thereby exposing your delectably stretch-marked post-pregnancy abdominal regions. The bra just unhooks at the strap of the shirt, and your tummy remains covered. This is modesty I can believe in. I was hung up on the $55 price tag (for a tank top!) until I realized I could have bought two of these shirts for the price of my one, lonely nursing bra. So I'm waiting for a sale...I think I like the purple :) (Holy crap I didn't think I had this much to say about nursing bras! Apologies to all readers, presumably male, if this made for squeesies. If you've even read this far!)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mama Bean is listening to the voices in her head

I am wondering if other people experience the phenomenon I call "The Writer's Voice." This is the voice I hear in my head when writing, and use to read aloud when reviewing and editing. I have now developed a distinct Blogger's Voice, that is a little different from what I might hear when composing a formal essay (or reviewing Papa Bean's assignments.)

I am struck by blogging topics randomly, often while driving, and compose paragraphs on a virtual screen in my head. (Don't worry, it doesn't distract from my driving, I am not a danger to my Fellow Commuter.) I have not yet perfected the ability to expediently get those paragraphs onto a real screen on my real computer into my real blog. This would be helpful, because I don't always remember the genius stuff I come up with on Country Road 2-0-whatever. And then I get frustrated, and don't want to write the post anymore, if it can't be exactly as wonderful as my flash of inspiration at 7 am yesterday. (It bears noting that whatever I've forgotten by the time I get to a keyboard likely wasn't as Amazing and World-changing as I think it was, or I would have remembered it.)

Every blogger has a voice. The Pioneer Woman has a distinct country charm that is inimitable, and she talks just like she writes. MckMama has particular idioms and phrasing that identify her in my mind, but when I finally saw an interview with her, she spoke nothing at all how I'd "heard" her writing in my head. If I can personally identify my own writing voice that is separate and distinct from my normal/everyday voice, how much more obvious is this difference to other people?

Previous blogs notwithstanding, I am relatively new to the blogging world. Certainly, as a writer-not-just-a-reader in the momblogging community. Because I have watched the momblog culture change and develop, I do get a little navel-gazingly meta about my blogging activities. As it was drilled into me during Technical Writing 203 (a BSc. degree requirement at the University of Cowtown, for reasons unclear to this day) you must Write For Your Audience. And so I consider my readers, though it feels presumptuous to do so, but I know I'm not writing this just for myself, or I wouldn't be pasting it all around the World Wide Internet, holyrunonsentencebatman *pause* I consider my readers, and I consider my voice. And since I'm looking at my bellybutton anyway, I pick out the lint while I'm at it.

I also wonder if the Blogger's Voice as subset of the Writer's Voice is really just a piece of the Performance Persona. I'm sure actors are aware of a particular actorly voicing they use, apart from a role, just that they use as their image of a Performer. Maybe an extreme example is the Beyonce/Sasha Fierce dealy. Or even just the way celebrities behave on talk shows. I've performed in a variety of (primarily musical) ways since childhood, so my performance persona is pretty developed, for better or worse. (It's taken time to stamp out the worse, and make it all for the better. Bygones. Or maybe a post for another time.) So maybe I hear this blogging-Mama Bean voice as part of that, and it's not something other writers waste much time considering.

And that's not to say I see this blog as some sort of performance. What I mean is, I understand, maybe more acutely than others, when I am creating something for public consumption, as it were. Right now, that public as I know it contains a diversity of people, from my husband, other family and close friends, to fellow Prairie Valley City moms, and purely online friends and fellow social-media-lites. If more people join the fun, the faces will increasingly blend together. And what will I think about my voice then? That question could keep me staring at my navel for many hours to come. In the meantime, I'll just keep typing out what the voices in my head tell me to :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mama Bean missed the point of Lent. Onwards and upwards

Friday's Link Love included this video of Father Barron explaining Lent. He explains the scriptural introduction to Lent is Jesus' temptation in the desert. Jesus resists the three basic types of temptation: for sensual pleasure, for glory, and for power. Satan's goal is to divert Jesus away from God, for him to desire something other than God. During Lent, we imitate this trial, we confront Satan in our own figurative desert. Before Easter, we want to affirm our focus on God.

This is the general idea behind giving something up for Lent: you sacrifice something, feel its absence in your life, and fill up the space with God. Realizing how much we are tempted by this little thing we've given up, seeing how much we can desire it, shows us how easily our faith can be sidetracked. And when we resist the temptation, it is by God's strength, to remind us of his grace. Before Easter, we want to focus especially on his grace.

This is the first year I've ever given something up, and honestly, I didn't feel I was getting much out of it. Of the two commitments, I've only really stuck with the not-drinking-anything-but-water thing. I couldn't keep up with restricting my internet use after 6 pm every day. I whined about how I couldn't do the things I wanted to do, or have the drinks I wanted to drink, waiting for God to Show Up and Reveal the great Meaning of it All. I was waiting passively for God to fill up the space, instead of actively seeking after him.

Papa Bean committed to the full lenten deal: prayer, alms-giving and sacrifice. All three behaviours helped him be more actively engaged in observing the lenten season. Seeing this video showed me how much I had missed the point. I couldn't just sit back and wait for Lent to happen to me. I needed to be reading, and praying, and actively engaging in the process. I feel bad about it now, but I know I have next year to do better.

Because I grew up in a mainline Protestant church, I never really learned about the liturgical year (or Church Calendar) which is probably why I never did the Lent thing. It was a Catholic deal. Over the past couple years, and primarily with Papa Bean's new pastor schooling, we've really come to appreciate the higher churches' tradition and rich symbolism. There is meaning and wisdom behind each rite and ceremony, the system creates opportunities and celebrations that bring you closer to God. I can see how growing up in the Catholic church, one might feel the Pomp and Circumstance gets a little legalistic; "do these things to be a good Catholic, and you will be blessed and get into Heaven." From my perspective outside the Catholic church, I see a set of meaningful tools in an elegant system of worship. All sects and denominations have a methodology to their worship, but I do see some that work so hard to emphasize grace by rejecting tradition, they've lost a feeling of Substance, the symbols fall flat.

For whatever reason, my faith journey thus far has brought me to this place of deep appreciation for the elegance of liturgy, and I want to explore it further. I think my experience with Lent is symptomatic of how I treat my faith in general; I wait for God to show up, instead of pursuing him. To that end, I will be making an Easter commitment, similar to what one might make during Lent. I will be reading the lectionary for the season, and actively engaging with it through writing and meditation/prayer.

I didn't even know Easter was an entire season until this year. The three days traditionally called Easter is actually a separate liturgical entity called the Easter/Paschal Triduum. The next fifty days is the true Season of Easter. We don't just celebrate the resurrection for one day, we do it for seven weeks. And the celebration culminates in Pentecost, which marks the birth of the Church. I just love the idea of really dwelling in the Resurrection, and participating Now in the History of my Faith, and carrying that tradition forward. It tickles my soul.

And that concludes our Sunday School lesson for today, lol.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mama Bean may not have been ready to be a mama. And yet, here we are

I'm a big proponent of owning your choices. By which I mean, once you've decided, go forward with that decision, and don't spend a lot of time wondering if you made the right choice. That's a good way to go crazy. Whatever choice you made was the right choice by virtue of you making it. Now, live it. Do what you have to do to emphasize the rightness of the choice.

I don't have a tonne of existential angst about motherhood. This pregnancy was not as on-purpose as others, but once the "decision" was made, once the test came up positive, it was the right thing. I wasn't being naive, my brain flashed through a variety of challenges raised by the timing: just bought a new business, how much leave should I take, can we afford it, etc. And then I set about doing what needed to be done. As much as we tried to plan for every eventuality of labour and delivery, still Bean surprised us five days early, and we set about doing what need to be done. We stepped forward into parenthood, without much knowledge, and certainly no time to wring our hands over the Meaning Of It All.

I have yet to meet a first-time mama who isn't overwhelmed by her ignorance on what exactly one is supposed to do with a baby. I know there are these EarthMamas out there who just know, but I'm not one of them. It took us upwards of ten or fifteen minutes to change Bean's diaper the first time, and that was with both of our collective faculties working at it. (This probably explains why we were peed on so often. Kid must pee every ten minutes, it seems. I got skillz now, change in a minute or less, no pee on my pants.) It took days to figure out how to swaddle, weeks to get a (tenuous) handle on breastfeeding. And none of this is helped by the hormonal crash-out, sleep deprivation, and general Delirium.

What is continually impressed upon me, through the Delirium and ignorance and ongoing confusion/awe/joy, is how smart babies are. Bean knows exactly what he needs - hungry, gross diaper, sleepy, love me. And he picks up the necessary communication tools as required - new baby fussums, then crying, some squeals and gurgles, screeching... and the body language, happy legs, happy hands; angry legs, anxious hands. A face that doesn't know how to hide what it's feeling yet. (I dread that day, when I first see his heart trying to hide from me.)

There is a very anxious new mama at breastfeeding clinic. She is willing to ask about all the same concerns I had, which shows more bravery than me, who just sat worrying and lurking the Internet for baby-punditry that failed to comfort. What is comforting is having answers and comfort to offer her, and feeling knowledgeable and capable. Look how far we've come, baby!

I have another friend who suffered panic attacks for months after her baby was born. Our offline lives and the online community are both rife with mamas overcoming postpartum depression and anxiety. Nobody is underwhelmed, or even merely whelmed by having a child; we are all overwhelmed beyond belief. Bean's birth hit Papa Bean like a tonne of bricks. He was so weighed down with responsibility and anxiety and love, it squeezed the tears from his tired, anxious eyes. Whenever he ran errands to get all the things we didn't know we were going to need, and took a little too long, I worried that he'd been in an accident, that he couldn't find what we needed, that he'd been robbed or killed and Bean and I were left defenseless and alone. I had expected to lean (heavily) on him through those early days (as I lean on him through pretty much Everything), I didn't think I'd be just as concerned for him as I was for our new Bean.

But I didn't just get a baby that day. I got a family. And the love and anxiety and Overwhelm of it all is not just for the baby, it's for my family. A few days ago, Papa Bean told me one of the things that helped him come back into himself. He read a post by another dad who explained, "You were born to do this." We are born to make babies, to make family, to Be Parents. We don't all do it the same way, in fact, we all do it entirely our own way. (This is why baby-punditry is, by definition, so blastedly diverse and contradictory.) We don't have to know How to do it, with our reasoned neocortex, but we will do it anyway, with the animal programming of our archicortex. We are born ready.
I want, I want, I want, but you don’t know what you want or how to get it. You hardly know who you are. You go on instinct. And your instinct mostly pushes you toward adventures you won’t grasp until you look back on them. Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward. -Erica Jong, Fear of Flying (from this blog)
Sometimes this feels like a marathon. Each diaper is a step, each feeding a mile, always going uphill, always getting more complicated (but eventually getting more sleep. Right? Right?) It is instinct, answering Bean's cry in the middle of the night - the last thing my neocortex wants to do at 3 am is leave my warm, comfy bed. It is instinct to protect him as we travel in our cars, though the neocortex devises lovely tools for accomplishing the task. I've got to keep looking forward, live forward, own it, this motherhood thing. But I can't really do that, unless I look back, and see how far we've come. That's when I see it. That I'm a mom. I was born for this.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mama Bean posts links on Friday - March 26, 2010

- You can't HANDLE the link! The Pioneer Woman is a SuperBlogger - her site has a regular blog, then cooking, photography, home & garden, and homeschooling wings, plus a collaborative cooking site. She toured a cooking book last year, and just sold the movie rights to her love story. I used to only read the cooking and regular blog parts, but on the RSS I get it all. So I found this homeschooling entry about coping with stress. It's a good example of the goofy charm that has won her thousands of readers (at least.)

- I have terrible name memory. It's rough, when my whole job is seeing people all day, engaging in something very valuable and important to them (their health), and then I can't remember their name (or their job, or how many kids they have) from month to month. I write myself notes on the chart, which helps, but I still feel I should be better at this by now. Anyway, according to the Cambridge Face Memory Test, it's not the face recognition I have a problem with. I was proud of my 96%, but I'm no 99% superstar-named-Jack.

- Jennifer from Conversion Diary has a whole, separate site of all the interesting links she finds. This link is a video of Father Barron explaining Lent. I think I will write more about this on Sunday. It was eye-opening, in that I'm-so-dense kind of way. It's a very straightforward explanation, and I enjoy it's simplicity.

- All the Smart came out on facebook when I posted this video of Fire in a Jar. This is why I'm a scientist, because of cool shit like this. Go see. It doesn't even matter why it happens. But just so you know, Kyle and Jack (of 99% fame above) explain: the bottom flame consumes oxygen inside the jar, creating a noncombustible layer. The vapour in the jar expands upward, and is hot enough to ignite oxygen at the jar's mouth, creating the second upper flame. This is the phenomenon called backdraft.

- Waste some time at You Suck at Craigslist. It's funny.

- Wow, I exercised excessive restraint again. I have many more links to love. I will just unleash them all upon the masses, without heed! *mwahaha* This video demonstrates the new capacities of Photoshop's content-aware function. It's like the program has AI; it is sentient. You just highlight or circle things you don't like, and click content-aware, and it evaluates the other stuff in the picture and fills in the blank. It's fan-fricking-tastic! I do all my photo editing in Picasa, which is free and does all I care about for now. But I'm getting very intrigued by all these actions and layers and content-awares. This could get dangerous!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mama Bean marvels at her complacency

Complacency kills practices. Patients are complacent; doctors (including this one) are complacent. Complacency resists change, but Change is Life. I could frame most of my professional doings as a battle against stagnancy, a fight for movement. The bulk of my work is correcting spinal joints and muscles to move better, to change their disordered state, to help people hurt less. The next layer is suggesting things they can do to help themselves. In the short term, maybe using ice to control pain and inflammation. Longer range, here's some stretches to prevent injury at work. And then preventative measures, quit smoking (just joined a friend's conversation about that on fbook) or lose some extra weight. These things aren't Chiropractic suggestions, but they invite people to change, away from complacency.

Patients return the favour. Every time someone doesn't respond the way I expect, or a mother brings in her toddler with a disorder I've never heard of and wonders if what I do can help; every time I'm challenged to think outside the diagnostic boxes I see day after day, my complacency gets shaken off my smug face. This is a pitfall of using a highly systematic adjusting method - one gets caught in a rut of protocol. This is what I know, now; when I start saying, "Business as usual" my business is dying of complacency.

Complacency kills families, too. All relationship, really. Papa Bean and I have been together since June 23, 2001. That's 105 months of change - his multiple schoolings, my extended leave of absence to Chiropractic college, houses, marriage, jobs, moving... When we drifted into complacency, we withered. Those who have survived a long distance relationship know that nothing about your communication across those many, many miles can be taken for granted. And then Bean! Babies change by the second. Their little neurons are building myelin (Go, myelin, go!) and connecting synapses with every breath, it's Insane. I think this may explain the paradoxical feeling that the days go slowly but they grow up too fast. On the one hand, packing that much Dynamic into a day makes the day long. But over a month or so, they've packed in the amount of learning and change and excitement our soft, adult bodies experience in a year, or more. And that makes the months seem fast. I can't afford to put things off, there is no "I'll do that tomorrow." And this will only be more apparent as he grows, starts talking, goes to school. We're molding a Life here! Complacency will kill it, if I don't keep my princess butt in gear.

Here's the rub, for me. Complacency kills faith. God is the biggest Agent of Change there is. If I lose sight of that, or give up on that, or reject that with my complacent apathy, out of desire for some comfortable status quo, I am spiritually dying a slow death. This may be my favourite part about Papa Bean attending pastor school; we are both learning, and being agitated by new and old ideas, and finding new language to communicate with and about God. It is perhaps fitting that, at the same time, our church finds itself at a crossroads. There is dissatisfaction being voiced, which is the opposite of complacency, and that`s a good place to start. I have hope that positive, productive change can be effected. I have faith that`s what God intends. I am looking forward to working on my complacency through the Easter season, which makes sense, being the celebration of God`s most transformative, most un-complacent work on Earth.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mama Bean did not miss PMS. Not even a leetle tiny bit

Bonus TMI post! And for good reason, am I right? That is precisely the kind of status update that should never see the light of facebook. Nobody wants to see that. But I still want to type about it. So. Blog.

I don't get terrible PMS from hell or anything, but it does impact my livewithableness. Everything is annoying. Everyone is out to get me. I'm defensive and edgy, irritable and grumpy. As little as I missed it, I'm sure Papa Bean missed it even less.

And then there's the universe's sense of humor when you throw a Bean into the mix. First, between pregnancy and nursing, it's been over a year since this blessed event occurred, which is just long enough to forget. Making the source of my foul mood a mystery for all of ten minutes, and then we Remembered. Second, being grumpy is totally improved by GSD, Generalized Sleep Deprivation. I still remember the lightbulb moment in the doctor's office when she explained menstruating causes loss of iron, creating a temporary anemia or something, making me Teh Tirrred. More Teh Tirrred than my usual, at that time, being a busy university student. As if I even knew what tired was. Ha!

Note to self: find iron supplement. For the sake of your husband and child, if not your self. Sincerely, Self.

And finally, yes, the Bean. PMS is hard on me, because I feel crappy but I don't know why, and all I want to do is whine about it. It should not be hard on him, because he is only five months old, and he doesn't know PMS from ABC. So, we feed and we diaper and we play and we nap as normally as possible, and it will not suck, because I have typed it out. And I feel. much. better.

Not sure if I should say thanks for

Mama Bean is immune to urine, except when it gangs up on her in a big bucket

Holy crap, I have been peed on so many times, I don't even care anymore. I love that the little newborn diapers (Seriously, did he ever actually fit those? I don't think so. They are like doll-sized) have the little bellybutton cut-out so the umbilical stump can heal, but dood, it's also basically a convenient little divet for baby penis to stick up and pee through. I tried putting them on more snugly, and more evenly, and more perfectly. I tried folding his little penis down, which was scary in the first few days, because I was scared of breaking him if I breathed on him too hard, and that particular piece of anatomy seemed especially fragile, or something. It didn't matter what I did, the pee escaped. And since we had to undress him to keep him awake enough to eat, all that pee just trickled freely onto me. Once, twice a feeding. Every three hours. Each Delirious Early Day feels like a week. It took one such week to get over pee. I am immune.

Frankly, I'm not even all that perturbed by the poo anymore. It all just becomes so comical. We will never forget this diaper change, when the poop started slowly, then suddenly erupted into a Fountain of Poop, simultaneous with a Pee Fountain. We couldn't stop laughing; my parents were visiting, and from the kitchen, we must have sounded crazy. This is what I mean by Delirious.

At least with disposables, the pee gets thrown away. Cloth diapers, not so much. The liners from our diapers go in a bucket, where all the pee cooks itself into Super Pee of Doom. There is no escaping the ammonia. I know there are strategies. We could be more consistent about sprinkling baking soda on them. Bleaching the bucket between launderings helps quite a bit. We wash out poo diapers and keep them soaking in a separate bucket. We could rinse all the diapers and keep them soaking, but that feels like several extra steps on top of a diapering process that already requires extra steps, and I am... unwilling. It's diapering, not dancing.

Bean usually wakes up fussy and grumpy, so I feed him right away, and change his diaper after. On Mondays and Fridays, I have to wake him up before I go to work, so the whole process is a little more sleep-deprived than other mornings. For the past two such mornings, he has waited through his feeding, until his sleeper is open, and his diaper is off (he sleeps in disposables. Kid pees a lot at night. I like to throw that pee away) and I've laid out a diaper cover with holder and clean, dry liner, and then. He. Pees.

It's so fun. I love it. I am so happy to start my early morning work days with that. These are precisely the mornings when I have NOT slept in fifteen precious extra minutes, so I have an abundance of time to source a new clean diaper, and clean off the change table mattress cover, and redress his squirmy arms and legs in another sleeper. The responsible mother that I am, I usually give myself extra time, naturally. That's what every good mother does, right?

Then again, that's pee that doesn't end up in the Poison Bucket of Ammoniac Doom. Sooo...there's that. Baby pee just cannot phase me anymore. On the other hand, I still get grossed out by errant pee on the toilet (Papa Bean, I'm looking at you.) At what age does the pee morph from innocuous to disgustnous? I'm just wondering because potty training looms ahead. Right now, the thought of said potty, and having to touch it and clean it, etc. kind of squees me out. Then again, that's what I wondered about diapers. And look how far we've come with that!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mama Bean will live to blog another day

My first blog was on diaryland. (That link will not take you to said blog, which I wish would just disappear, but remains a shadow of its former glory (haha) on dland's servers in perpetuity.) (Brackets within brackets, I have a problem.) Several close friends also had diaryland blogs, and we all gave each other guestbook pats on the back. When I moved to the US for Chiropractic college, I figured this would be a good way to keep in touch with friends, so I didn't give a lot of thought to the rest of the blogging community, or attracting "strangers" to read my blog. Unfortunately, I never really fell into a regular posting rhythm. I'd think of things to write about, and compose lovely entries in my head, but forget the particular turn of phrase or whatever by the time I sat at the computer, so it would never get written. Only Papa Bean really got the hang of regular blogging. Most of those dland sites are now defunct.

Papa Bean was the first to switch the Blogger. My first blogspot was titled "Love Covers a Multitude of Sins" which is from 1 Peter 4:18: Above all, love each deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. It is one of my favourite bible verses, and a guiding life principle for how to treat, y'know, humanity. I had so many good intentions to pave the road to that blog's hell. Thankfully, it did document some of my thought processes while struggling with American politics, and American Christians. But again, posting was never a priority, and the blog languished.

My second blogspot was created after graduating from Chiropractic college, returning to Cowtown, and getting married. I hadn't updated my other site in ages, I don't know why I suddenly thought I could commit to a new blog and really make something of it. This blog was titled "Deus Ex Maoir Quam Es" which is latin for God is Bigger Than This. It is another guiding life principle of mine, and if I weren't uber-scared of needles, I'd get a tattoo of it. (There were other blogs; a short-lived wedding blog, a joint blog with Papa Bean when we moved that we never update, an obsolete page for my graduating class from Chiropractic college. They didn't last.)

Despite the faith-based underpinnings of their titles, neither of these blogs focused on religious or theological content. Nor were they a traditional "web-log" account of my daily activities. I just shared thoughts and stories I needed to process in a written way, and which I thought my readers (i.e. friends, family) might enjoy. By the time Deus Ex came along, facebook was already a regular part of most people's lives, and the need for that sort of log-type posting and picture-sharing was supplanted by status updates, tweets, and flickr or fbook albums. Blogs had long morphed into the niched and branded self-publishing phenomenon they are today. And new programming allowed for greater community: better comment management, better forum creation, better everything. Praise the Lord for Wordpress, right?

I read mom-blogs for years before I became a mother. It's a habit I picked up from Papa Bean, who has remained consistent and involved in the blogging community. I love being part of this community, and have crept out of the lurking shadows, to comment and engage. I love writing within this community, even though it's not all mama-ness all the time on here (and even when it feels like it's all been said before by some other blog.) I told myself this blog would be different, and I would post regularly or So Help Me Blog.

My primary strategy for that is the weekly themed posts: TMI Tuesdays and Friday Link Love. Even just completing these entries each week has me posting about, oh, a kazillion times more often than all my other blogs combined. Another useful strategy of sorts is just the endless entertainment and learning Bean provides; I am inspired by multiple stories or issues a day. My problem is wanting every post to be perfect or meaningful or just somehow important. I want each entry to be crafted; to tell a story; to have a beginning, middle and end; an introduction, supporting paragraphs and conclusion. I fall into writing essays, when I'm really just writing a blog. Basically, I need to get over myself. (Basically, I need to stop italicizing everything. I have a problem.)

It's a journey. Get it? I'm on a road...

So, it's a process, and I'm getting more comfortable with writing lightly and briefly. I also plan to blog more in direct response to the mom-blogging community, because I find the communication within this group so valuable and fun. It's been a kicking good time so far, and I won't be running out of steam any time soon, as far as I can tell.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mama Bean is down with the social contract

If you knew a surefire way to get out of paying any speeding ticket, what would you do? Would you go speeding around the roads, flouting traffic laws and safety, because you knew you could get out of punishment?

Why do we follow the law? What is its purpose? If you knew you could avoid the consequences of disobeying the law, would you break the law on principle, or obey the law - on principle?

I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know how the legal profession defines the purpose of Law. I see Law as the set of rules that allows us to live together in society. We are social creatures; our survival, health and prosperity work better in community. Alone we have weakness, together we accomplish much, etc. etc.

Law is a social contract, that we agree to follow. We do this because, in order to benefit from living in society, we are responsible for following society's rules. Following the law could be seen as kind of voluntary - you can simply not sign up for the contract. But then you also forfeit the benefits, right? And sometimes, one of the benefits is living freely.

For example, let's say you don't sign up for the part of the contract that says we don't kill each other. And you go kill someone. Anyone has the ability to kill another person, and I guess the right to do so, except that it's counteractive to living together harmoniously. So then the group identifies you as someone counteractive, and maybe dangerous, to living with other people, and you get removed from society.

But that's sort of an extreme example. Let's go back to speeding tickets. You can choose to not sign up for the part of the contract regarding traffic laws. You can speed around as much as you want. I have been known to speed on occasion okay way too often it's a terrible habit. It's our right to drive as fast as we want. But driving too fast can be dangerous to other people on the road. So the group identifies speeding as counteractive to living with other people, and creates a punishment to deter people from doing it. If you do it anyway, you get a ticket.

What's my point? I forget. Oh! You don't have to pay the ticket, you could choose not to sign up for that part, too. And in fact, there are ways to circumvent these things. But why? Not speeding is a good thing. Being safe, and living nicely with each other is a good thing. Yes, the social contract is voluntary, but it's also (generally) reasonable. Just because you can get around the law, just because it's voluntary, doesn't mean you should get around it, doesn't mean you should opt out.

I guess I just kind of believe in the social good. I don't have much problem signing up for society's contracts, because I like other people, and I like living together harmoniously. I like feeling safe and productive and prosperous. I don't mind paying my taxes. Like, sometimes 30% feels like a lot, and sometimes the math hurts my head and my pocketbook. Until, y'know, those taxes pay for my midwifery care, or pay for the cops patrolling my neighborhood, or pay for the paving on my highway to work. I don't have to pay taxes, none of us have to pay taxes. Really, the whole tax system was implemented as a way to pay for WWII, and we've all just kept going along with it kind of voluntarily, because it pays for shit to get done. So I do pay my taxes. I'm down with the contract.

AAAaaaAAAaaaanyway, that's my little socialist diatribe. Politics are another form of social contract. We agree to governance because it helps us live together. And really, any group gathering together has its own political structure, has its own contract for members to accept (or reject and leave the group.) Church congregations have politics, and most people don't like it, and the waters get muddied by our religious ideas of being nice to each other and following the higher calling of God's Divine Purpose or somesuch. But yeah... church politics. They happen. And it gets rough.

Clearly, these are not lenten musings, I just felt like writing about them today. My internet deprivations have, oh let's say, FAILed. I'm doing fine with the water drinking, though I'm not sure it's inspired many deep and meaningful thoughts about God. But my church is on my mind. Church politics and dynamics. Because I'm comfortable with social contracts, I'm comfortable maneuvering within them, and this makes some parts of politics and stuff fun for me. Kind of? I enjoy playing with the language of Community. I like making words that help us help each other.

My church is on my mind. This lenten season has been a season of limbo for us. There is potential for change, and even growth, if complacency doesn't win. We are navigating the social contract. We don't have to, we never have to. It's always our right to walk away. But I think we should. We should play. I don't know what Easter is bringing, but I expect good things. I think when we play well with others, when we're down with the various contracts, we can expect good things.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mama Bean wonders if Bean is ready for solids

I just ate an orange in front of Bean. It was like teasing a puppy begging at the table. His eyes were fixated on each wedge as it went from bowl to mouth. That could have been because they were brightly coloured, except his little tongue started pushing in and out. By the third or fourth piece, his legs were kicking with excitement, and his arms were doing their excited, vibrate-y thing. His mouth was making that hungry oooooOOOOOoooooOOOOO face, opening and closing. Then he started thrusting his chin up with duck lips, which usually means he's happy. The last straw, that really made me feel like a cruel cruel lady, was when his mouth started watering. I mean, his mouth sort of waters all the time... but this seemed more Pavlovian.

I did nurse him after I was done, so I'm not the devil. But I think he sensed it wasn't quite the same.

He will be starting on solids in the next month or so, though I'm not in any rush. He drools plenty, but no teeth nubs have appeared, so it's not like breastfeeding will get hyper uncomfortable anytime soon. However, I am not pumping enough milk to make up for what he drinks while I'm at work. Papa Bean will probably have to start supplementing formula for some of his bottles while I'm away. This is good, because right now the 5 or 6 ounces doesn't seem to be filling him up, so with formula we can try giving him 7 or more. He's gaining weight beautifully now, so I'm not worried about that anymore. And just the other day, I tricked him into eating without the nipple shield for at least three or four feedings, which felt like the Victory of all Breastfeeding Victories. In fact, I'd almost prefer he consistently be off the shield before we start confusing the nutritional landscape with cereals and mashy vegetables.

Until then, maybe I'll enjoy my fruit when he's not watching.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mama Bean posts links on Friday - March 19, 2010

- The week kicks off with a Christoph Niemann collection from the New York Times, of abstract maps illustrating things like an omelet, or chewing gum. It totally made my Monday-morning-after-Daylight-Savings-Time better.

- I always love internet addictions that are also for a good cause. FreeRice is a vocabulary quiz, with fairly hard words. (As Mike said, "man...tabor!!") For every correct answer, ten grains of rice are donated to a country in need. Ten grains doesn't seem like much, but there's a handy little picture that shows what your answers have amounted to. After about 500 grains, you get a sense that someone's actually going to get a meal from your efforts. The words do repeat, especially if you get one wrong, so you can get it right the next time - and get the rice!

- Desiring God posted a link to a free download of a coffee-table-ish book (well, the pdf is free, I don't know how much the book costs) about street people, compiled by volunteers on the (American) west coast. I got a little cynical about the project by page 3, I don't know why, and I don't think it says anything particularly complimentary about me. I am pretty jaded, I know, but I'm not heartless. My reaction to this book made me think otherwise. Maybe someone more heartfull will get more out of it than I did.

- I was really hoping someone on facebook would take up the challenge of The Impossible Quiz and tell me how they fared. I got totally hooked on this thing for most of an afternoon. It's basically a series of trick questions, and some you just plain have to guess. Papa Bean helped me get past some of the trickier ones. Go waste some time!

- This is the US National Debt Clock. I wrote on facebook that I wished there was one for Canada, so I googled it. The Canada Debt Clock puts our debt around $15 billion, but it isn't all broken down like the US one.

- The last two links are both from Her Bad Mother. First, she responded to a New York Times article about mommy blogging. The next day, she posted some hate mail she received. The gist of both posts was moms rock, blogs rock, women rock, why can't we all be nice too each other. But she says it so much better.

So I've worried, as the Link Love posts got longer, and my facebook profile got crowded with linkages, that I was sharing Too Much Internet. And then this week's post feels kind of lame. I exercised excessive restraint. With the RSS feeder, it's even easier to wade through the Not and find the Hot, if I posted it all I know 'twould overwhelm. But I guess I don't have to be sooooo discriminating, or I'll have more boring posts like this one. And I know how much y'all are Depending On Me (ha!)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mama Bean thinks headlights and missionaries have something in common

As a friend pointed out at breastfeeding clinic today, whoever came up with the Spring Forward part of Daylight Savings Time was clearly not a mother. It was all well and good to tell myself Bean woke up at 5 am on Sunday morning, but every cell of my brain knew full well it was 4 am. Which is too freaking early. Then again, bygones. For the girl who used to sleep in past 10 am every chance she got, every morning is too early.

The sick thing is that daylight really is saved, that is, it's still light out while I drive home after my evenings shifts. And, other than the ten minutes I drive due west straight into the setting sun, it is nice to no longer feel as though I'm driving home at midnight. Plus, I don't have to deal with headlights anymore. The country roads I drive have no streetlights, so unnecessarily bright lights get annoying. And I don't remember the courtesy rules anymore for how near or far people should be in re: turning on your brights.

So, my drive takes 45 minutes each direction. It's a lot of time. I sing a lot. Think about living in the country. Daydream about this year's garden. And sometimes I come up with random analogies between headlights and evangelism. Bear with me, this may be one of those things that only makes sense in my head.

Brights are useful when a car is very far away, because all you can see are their headlights, and with the brights you see them that much better. But of course, as the car gets closer, brights become unnecessary, and then downright obnoxious. At this point, the car is close enough you could probably see it without lights at all. In fact, if they leave their brights on, they will blind you to everything else, you don't see the car, you don't see the road, all you see is light. This is why we turn the brights off when we're close to people, because with proximity, that amount of light stops being safer, or helpful, and becomes dangerous.

If you're a famous evangelist who addresses the masses from far away, a Billy Graham or Rob Bell or even pastor at a mega church, your message needs to be pretty loud, and pretty bright. At that distance, people can't see anything else about you, unless you turn the brights on, and then that message is pretty much all they see about you. But as relationship gets closer, that kind of intensity isn't appropriate; you've got to turn the brights down. Otherwise, the volume of your message will blind them to the reality around your message. And in honest relationship, that reality is important, because the light of our faith exists next to our cracked windshields, and dented bumpers, and dusty windows. The message of how faith adds meaning to life carries more weight in light of the Whole Picture.

I don't consider myself much of an evangelist. I'm not very good at turning up the lights of my faith for people distant from me. Heck, sometimes I just want to turn the lights off and hide from being a Christian at all. I can cringe when the Bright Lights of Christianity speak on behalf of all of us. It's an interesting predicament for someone whose husband is attending pastor school. His education also becomes mine, as we're processing all kinds of wonderful ideas and thoughts about God and the Church. And that processing is going to show up on this blog, because that's what I do here. I write about the cracked-dented-dusty, and yes, the light, too.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mama Bean may never look at her boobs the same way again

When Bean was very small, he honked during breastfeeding. With every inhalation, something about his airways being narrow, or less developed, or congested would cause this honking noise, so we called him our little goose. It was a little worrisome, until the midwives told us it was nothing of concern, which didn't stop everyone else from continuing to fret. Thank goodness he stopped doing it shortly after six weeks of age.

I made notes in my excessively detailed breastfeeding chart of other noises he made when nursing. In the delirium of those Early Days, his fast breathing sounded like him whispering, "oh yeah oh yeah oh yeah" or "right on right on right on" and "mine mine mine" over and over for twenty minutes on the boob. I thought it was adorable and hilarious. Wondered if he'd always be a "boob man."

The truth is, I do kind of think of my boobs as his, right now. He occupies them for six to ten feedings a day, and they spend the time in between filling up for the next one. When we were learning how to breastfeed, I said the craziest things to encourage his feeding, mostly in regards to how good it felt when he'd get a good solid suck going. From these earliest moments, I ceased thinking of my breasts as sexual objects, because my head could not wrap itself around urging my son to suck, and suck harder, on a body part with any trace of erogenous connotation. Well, and this is as it should be. But I laugh about it. Who says those kinds of things but a crazy, sleep-deprived new mom?

So I'm left wondering if this effect ever wears off. When do I get my breasts back? Now that they've served this life-giving function, can I ever look at them as anything other than milk factories? Can my husband? I mean, I haven't even really reclaimed my abdomen as my own after pregnancy, which ended five months ago. By the time I wean Bean, if it takes as long to readjust, I may just be pregnant again, and start the whole process all over. It could be years before my chest is my own again!

This is where moms get the crazy guilt trip ammunition, isn't it? The declarations of carrying them for nine months, and labouring for hours (or not so much, in Bean's case), and feeding them from our very own bodies (let alone the sleepless nights, or permanent poop stains); this is the reasoning behind the histrionics Even for those who don't end up breastfeeding, I think there is a sense that our bodies are never fully our own after bearing a child.

"Is it boob time? Tell me it's boob time! I'm ready for boob time,
hurry up, feed me feed me feeeeeeeeeed me!"

But then.
It's all worth it.
I'd give him my right arm...
But my boobs will probably suffice.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mama Bean had a can't-win-for-trying kind of week

It's been a mixture of challenge and blessing this week. My reaction to the challenges has amply demonstrated I use the internet to avoid Bad Feelings. Heck, I use it to avoid Real Life, including Bean. That is a tough realization, and it's tough to put in words on "paper." Kids don't take up less time, or require fewer resources, as they get bigger and older. The first weeks were Delirious, but he still spent most of his time sleeping. His naps now are getting shorter, and further apart. When he's awake, he doesn't want to be in the swing or the command centre, he wants to be with us, interacting and playing. And he's pretty impossible to resist, being cuter than stink. So this less-time-on-the-internet thing will continue after Lent. It has to, and I will be a better person and mother for it. Let this blog be my witness!

As I wrote about yesterday, the new RSS reader brings blessings and challenges. I love the efficiency. I love knowing I'm not missing anything. I love not wasting time clicking through piles of non-updated sites. I do not love the way it makes me feel obsessive-compulsive about seeing eachandeverysitebeforeIdieOMG. But I think I can get over that, or Bean will force me to, and ultimately the blessing will overrule.

This blog has become a HUGE blessing, in both personal and interpersonal ways. I love to write, it makes my mental process solid and tangible, instead of fragmented and tangled in my head. Processing means that mamahood isn't something that's happening to me. I would have found my way around to writing about parenting, even if I didn't choose the public route of having a blog, but my personality responds well to the relational aspect of blogging. As with all social media, it creates another plane of relationships, and deepens real life relationships, and generally enriches my sense of community. In particular, this new community of mamahood, which felt nebulous and complicated, seems much friendlier, now that I've started to participate on here and on facebook, and share my stories and Process. And processing things on here helps me interact with the real life mothering community more authentically. I think before, I would have felt confused and defensive in a group of moms, which is why I abstained from breastfeeding clinics and the like. But somehow blogging brings me confidence, and I can just be the mama that I am, in real life and online.

There are a few unique challenges of blogging, which I will address in separate posts. The main challenge right now is having too many ideas to write about, and not enough time, especially with the internet limitations, but more broadly just from Living a Life and Being a Mama. And I really can't call being the most inspired I've felt in years truly a bad thing. It's one of those blessings to complain about, y'know?

The ultimate blessing this week, which makes the other challenges fade away, was having Papa Bean's parents visiting. It's been a wonderful weekend, with lots of family and cuddles and faspa (!) The kind of weekend that makes you forget about anything but love and smiles. So I guess we did win this week, after all. And not by trying, just by the grace of God. Phew! Ready for the next one...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mama Bean's lenten deprivations have led to More Efficient Internets. Much rejoicing!

Seriously, RSS feeds are fricking genius! Why why why (ad infinitum) did it take me this long to figure it out? Computer programmers are very intelligent people, they know how to make our lives easier, we should listen to them. The blessed, blessed programmers created programs that will keep track of the sites you read, and tell you when they're updated, and provide a handy little viewing screen to preview whether said update is worth your precious (limited by Lent) internet resources. This is the invention of a Lifetime! (No, not the television channel.)

The programmers have not made an easy way to, say, import an existing set of Favourite'd sites and subscribe to them all at once. I had to manually enter each web jewel separately. But it was so worth it. Now, I just go to my reader (the Google one. I didn't research this choice, I used the one Papa Bean uses. Let me know if you have one you like better) and everything that's updated since I last looked is bolded. And it takes me to the permalinked page, instead of the homepage, so no more "clicking through" or "following the jump". I don't know why this feels like I'm saving enormous amounts of time, because I'm basically just saving clicks and tabs, but for some reason I feel like my entire World Wide Life has been streamlined.

And I'm gradually figuring out that I am not somehow missing things. I am learning to trust the reader. In fact, I can be less paranoid about it now than I was before, clicking past entries on or Evil Beet that I vaguely remembered, just to find an anchor post I was sure I'd read previously. So, you know, less irrational surfing, it's all good. I used to hop online two or three times a day, open every site on my Daily Visits list (which was massive) and click through each one, closing those that hadn't changed, just to find the few with new content. And sometimes, when I was done, I'd do it again, just to see if one of the unread sites had magically updated in the ten minutes since I'd checked last. This is the kind of obsessive browsing that prompted my Internet fast in the first place.

Problem number one, I am now able to follow even more sites than before. I've resubscribed to webcomics and blogs set on backburner for months or years because I just didn't feel I had the time. Problem, or maybe just revelation number two, RSS readers allow the analytical (such as myself) to very visually and accurately quantify total web use. I'm averaging 80+ updates a day on my current list of subscriptions, and that list will only get longer. It's too much. I am a tad anal retentive. Certainly linear and methodical. With poor impulse control, what you might call compulsive. So when I see 67 new items, I have to start at the bottom and open each one in turn. If I don't have time to read it, I leave that tab open until some magical free time arrives. If I must leave my computer, because it's 6 pm, or Bean is going to bed, or I'm going to work, or my husband wants to, like, talk to me... and I return to 84 items, I can't just start in the middle. Or scan for something truly interesting, and leave the remaining unread items under a couple of the unbolded chosen few. I have to go to the bottom, and work my way upward. It's ridiculous. And I have a set of twenty tabs already, of long text-y articles and posts that I just know I will want to read just as soon as I haveaminuteorfivehundred.

Okay, but I can overcome my compulsions oh sure. The point is that I have discovered a wonderful tool and I needed to write 900 words about it. Also, I'm considering switching browsers to Chrome. I am intrigued by these assurances that Chrome never crashes. Firefox certainly crashes far far less than IExplore, but my last computer had a serial crashing issue with Firefox that is hinting at reappearing with this computer, so I want to escape. I feel a little entrenched though, the way my Favourites are organized. I know this shouldn't be a problem with things like Delicious and Xmarks, but it is for me. Seth Godin has a term for it that I can't remember, this strategy that technology marketers use to create complexity that ensnares users and makes leaving difficult. Cell phone plans and features are a good example. It's sort of like captive loyalty. I don't like it, but I'm still too lazy about it to actually go download Chrome. But I'm thinking about it. It only took me three years to discover RSS...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mama Bean posts links on Friday - March 12, 2010

- Starting off with another find! Sounds about right. This is a music video of a very apologetic man goofily winning back his love's good will. It is presented as something real that some guy did, but upon reflection, I think it was probably staged as a fairly low budget music video. But it's still pretty cute. I'd go back to him.

- This Sarah Schmelling spoof of the What to Expect Series, written for a 38-year-old is pretty cute. I found WTEWYE kind of the opposite-of-helpful when I was pregnant. It mostly seemed to say anything is normal when you're pregnant. Hair falling out? It happens! Hair super amazing? Also possible! Hair completely the same? Sure, why not?! It also seemed to say anything is worrisome. Do you feel constipated? Probably normal, but eat more fiber! Do you have diarrhea? Could be normal, but make sure you're drinking enough fluids. No change in regularity? That may seem normal, but it could be an indication of super rare infant monkeybuttfingeritis! In any case, make sure to annoy your doctor with inane questions that this book is supposed to answer so you don't waste their time!!! Hmmm, apparently I had a lot to say about this topic...

- Last week I posted a video of physiological machines. This week, posted a subway map of human body systems. It is really well done. (Click on the picture to make it bigger.)

- One of the best examples of why hockey is Canada's game. During the gold medal game, water use in Edmonton (and presumably other major centres) plummeted during play, and drastically spiked during intermissions between periods. Basically, the whole country took a collective potty break. Awesome. I've been wondering if Americans would have reacted to winning the same way Canadians did, since hockey isn't as big down there. It's not, like, football, or baseball. I know Canadians would not have handled losing as coolly as Americans did, though. We would have been a nation of sack cloth and ashes, wailing and gnashing of teeth. It would have been bad, y'all.

- Mitchell and Webb is, I gather, a British sketch comedy show. In this video, they take on the incessant football (soccer, to the erstwhile colonized masses) coverage in their part of the world. Kind of like hockey or ohmigoodnessrslyneverending curling coverage here in the Prairie Valley. And yes, you love me because I used erstwhile in context.

- Is it ever okay to spank your kids? This article was written by one of my favourite bloggers EVER. On my facebook, two moms like'd it, and two guys who are not (yet) fathers commented. The article is not really even mostly about spanking, more about how we might choose, in the moment, parenting practices we never thought we'd use, or that parenting-pundits tell us are Fundamentally Wrong. She writes, "We all have good guesses and great intentions and well-laid plans, but the truth of the matter is that the work of raising children, by its very nature, defies all those things." There is an invitation, for all parents, to cut each other some slack. She emphasizes that mothers belong to a community, and communities work better when we're nice to each other. Most of the comments at the site are favourable, but some folks do tear into her.

- This is a cute reworking of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul's popular list of What Love Is. It starts off, "Love is patient when you’re dressing for the wedding and discover your husband forgot to pick up your dress from the cleaners."

- A timely post for "preachers and those who listen to them." To summarize: 1) Trust there is a cumulative effect to the preaching. It's impossible for a pastor to deliver the Killer Sermon each and every week. They should not expect it of themselves, and neither should congregants. 2) Define the win; devise a rubrik for evaluating the essential traits of a sermon. He proposes his own (text-based, Christ exalting, gospel centred, audience focused) but I imagine each pastor could come up with his or her own criteria. Since I'm not a pastor, I found this message to listeners most close-to-home: "Don't judge your pastor on whether he is funny or dynamic or captivating. If your pastor is preaching the bible, exalting Christ, keeping the Gospel central and applying it to your context, then you have a great pastor and you should thank God for him. Stop complaining about your pastor's delivery; pray for your receptivity. I hear people criticize their pastor's preaching but never scrutinize their own listening. Maybe the problem is not what you think it is."

-And we end off with yet another link, and yet another subway map, this time of various rock bands on different coloured genre-lines, highlighting key intersections and overlaps. Music snobbery at its best!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mama Bean took the crib bumpers out of Bean's crib

I spent a good part of a feeding yesterday pondering why they are called bumpers in the first place. I think of bumpers as those big rubber-type things on the fronts and backs of cars that ostensibly protect the car from damage in collisions, but are actually super expensive pieces of equipment that guarantee paying of huge deductibles and arm+leg type repairs with even the smallest of fenders benders. (Oh yeah! They're called fenders on cars, so why not crib fenders?) I guess they're called bumpers because they are shock absorbing, but around the inside of the crib instead of the outside, and they protect baby's head when he gets to the age of throwing himself around the cage, as it were. I suppose. I don't know why we don't just call them crib padding, or something. I also fail to understand why a crib needs a skirt. Nursery decorating in general, and crib bedding in particular, baffles me. Bean's nursery looks nothing like the magazines.

For something so seemingly innocuous and straightforward, crib bumpers inspire great volumes of baby-punditry. The primary argument pertains to safety - the padding is thick enough to suffocate a baby, especially if he gets his head somehow wedged between the pads and the crib bars or the mattress or somesuch. Suffocation risk also raises the alarm on having stuffed animals or extraneous blanketry in the crib. Apparently, there is also concern the padding may somehow trap a layer of carbon dioxide from baby's breathing, making the environment within the bumpers hypoxic and dangerous. Thus, there are netting type crib "bumpers" that have no padding at all, and I fail to see how they would offer any sort of protection or comfort in the event of cranial impact.

Despite the dire warnings, every catalog and nursery picture from here to eternity features cribs that are sheeted, blanketed, skirted, and bumpered within an inch of their proverbial lives. (Ah yes, the lives of furniture, so rich, so multi-faceted. Do you think the end tables begrudge the dresser's their drawers of secret wonder? Are the dressers, in turn, jealous of the bed's linens and 300-thread count finery?) So. We bought bumpers. We visited two Sears stores, during a baby related sale, and found some coordinating sheets, blanket and bumper at some significant percentage off. Much of our nursery furniture was gifted to us by a church family who had outgrown it, which was awesome. Buying the bedding was basically our only expense, and we got this uber deal, which tickles my husband's frugal little heart. Those were heady times, those pre-baby shopping days!

It was all for naught, however, as the bumpers have been unceremoniously removed. In order to get the sheets onto the crib mattress, one must lift the mattress completely out of the crib, and the circle of padding, with its fiddlely little ties and bows, just isn't conducive to accomplishing this task in an expedient fashion. Which is to say, I needed to put him down for a nap one day, and I couldn't get the mattress dressed in time to prevent imminent meltdown, so I just untied the bumpers as fast as I could so the poor, wailing Beast could be soothed by the Swaddle and the Sleep Machine as quickly as possible.

We could discuss why the stupid sheets must fit so blasted tightly in the first place. It's probably also due to some fear of looser bedding somehow rising up against the hapless babes and suffocating them like the bumpers will. Or maybe I shrunk them. That's more likely. To be honest, we didn't even need to buy the match-y blanket, we were given so many beautiful blankets and quilts. And we don't really need the four fitted sheets recommended by the Sears registry list, because, as with our own bed, we basically wash and dry the thing within the day and put the same one right back on the mattress, so the other sheets are left unused in the cupboard. Maybe that's the crux of it right there: I should hardly have expected myself to try harder with the upkeep and costuming of my baby's bed than I do my own.

So the bumpers are gone, and I am relieved. I only miss them for one thing, they kept the soother from falling out of the crib when Bean spits it out when he's sleeping. Their removal had nothing to do with increased safety, because his crib still has a corner of stuffed animals, and a small pile of supplementary blankets, and one of those foam wedges with the rolls that was supposed to help Bean with his breathing, and has a handy tool to remember which way his head was turned the previous night, so he doesn't get plagiocephaly, which we no longer use, but I can't bear to pack away, because we paid full price for it. Why aren't there concerns about this contraption's suffocative potential? It says to stop using when your baby starts rolling around. Couldn't the same be said of bumpers? Some baby-pundits say using blankets is dangerous, also, because babies can get tangled in them and suffocate, hence grow-bags or sleep-bags or whatever. We bought one of those, but it will be too small by the time Bean outgrows the Swaddle.

Up until now, Bean still sleeps cross-wise in his crib, because it is easier to swaddle him when he's turned that way. But soon he will be too tall for that. I guess time will tell how much of a sleep-traveler Bean becomes when he starts rolling around (so soon!) And before we know it, he'll be sitting up, and then pulling on the bars, and we'll have to lower the mattress. I suspect the blanket pile will be the first to go. But at least one stuffed animal must stay, to hold his soother in its lap, so we always know where to find it when we're putting him down to sleep. The soother holder is essential for preventing Frazzled Nerves and Domestic Hostilities. Unless you listen to the baby-pundits who think soothers are a choking hazard during sleep...ugh, it could go on forever. Thank goodness he just sleeps through it all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mama Bean spends too much time thinking about poo

I seem to have been raised with an unusual preoccupation with poo. I remember years of disgusting fiber supplements, and daily oat bran cereal, and avoiding bananas because they bung you up, all in an effort to attain the elusive beast called Regularity. This was a highly prized achievement indeed, and in my childhood home, it remains a topic of frequent conversation. Papa Bean can attest that few family meals go by without some discussion of the matter.

Given this frame of reference, it is perhaps not surprising that I charted Bean's poops for his first month of life. We changed his diaper at every feeding, for which I would record the time, amount and/or time spent eating, and the status of pee or poo in the diaper. I have pages and pages of entries like "black green milk flecks" (Oh, the lovely meconium! No matter your dedication to cloth diapers, do not waste their pristine absorbent surfaces to this shit. Use disposables and toss it far, far away from your life.) or "small yellow seedier." (Did I feel Bean's poo resembled a shabby, run-down hotel?) Often I simply noted its presence ("Yes") and its size ("small" worrisome when too many in a row, "big" written with great relief and pride, as though I were personally responsible for his autonomic functions.) On the evening of October 27th, we even had one designated "epic!" and another November 7th "EPIC ALL OVER MY HAND!" At one point, I attempted to quantify more specifically, marking ts and tb amounts, treating poo like a cooking ingredient. For awhile, I recorded yellow farts (or sharts) until I realized these are not important.

My accounting of his fecal activity knew no limits until November 12th. It just wasn't worth the paper anymore. (Though I did continue charting feeding times/durations/boob used, and later just times, until December, when we went to Calgary, and I finally felt comfortable enough to rely on my no longer addled or Delirious memory of how many times I fed him in a day.) Now, I am not as obsessed with frequency. All babies, but breastfed ones in particular (it seems) poop when they feel like it, and no amount of fretting or documentation on our part will change that.

I do still take an unnecessary interest in its appearance, however, much to Papa Bean's chagrin. The infant digestive system is incredibly efficient, which I guess is pretty easy when you're basically just eating one food over and over (and over) again. I spent a morning feeding's meditation trying to remember, from my Chiropractic education, which bile derivatives might be responsible for baby poo's unique neon mustard hue. The observations of "seediness" made me think of cottage cheese, and how the commercial product is made through a similar acidifying and digesting process. When the colour changes, or amount of seeds is up or down, I think about how long he's been eating at feedings, which would indicate how much early foremilk he's getting (more sugary, less seeds, greener colour) versus later hindmilk (more fatty, more seeds, yellower colour.) And when he was sick this weekend, we saw two diapers with kind of a brown mucusy output, which made us wonder just how much Snot and Dreck the poor kid was ingesting, since he hasn't quite figured out how to spit it out (though he spits out nearly everything else with zero coaching or encouragement.)

I might not get as detailed next time, but I found charting the early weeks of feedings and poops is super valuable. I love having that record to look back on. I wrote down other special happenings alongside the mundane, like when his eyelashes came in, and when his umbilical stump fell off. (I also wrote down status updates I meant to put on my facebook, only to reach the computer later that day, and realize the update was completely inappropriate. Hence, this blog.) In the midst of it, I was certain I would Never Forget these things, because I was still keyed up on endorphins, which made me think Everything Is Possible. But I was also chock full of oxytocin, which is the forgetting hormone, after all. Not to mention the crashing estrogen/progesterone levels, and general sleep deprivation. There were also times I thought I would never want to remember, the difficult moments when I reacted poorly. But in retrospect, I'm glad for that record, too, as it demonstrates what I was able to overcome. That makes me feel strong.

But next time, I won't record pees. Bean pees every ten seconds, or something. That column in the chart basically amounts to a string of "wet"s. Welp, that's two TMI weeks in a row about poo for your eternal edification. We will see how much weight he's gained on Wednesday, which may inspire more boobtastic musings for next week.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mama Bean realizes (anew) that the Internet has business hours

The internet is not the TechnoUniverse that never sleeps. At least, not the way I use it. I have lamented (truly) sites that don't update on weekends, especially during periods of unemployment, which made me LOL (IRL, not just the figurative internet "out loud") at this toothpastefordinner strip. But even on weekdays, most sites update once a day. The good ones. Considering the bulk of my daily internetting is blogs, I'm looking at new content from half my sites every other day. Maybe. Even on, which has a group of submitters, or gossip sites like Evil Beet, I'm easily able to read through a day's content in one sitting. I don't know why I check my sites compulsively multiple times a day. Only lemondrop and ONTD post in such a serial fashion that I can't keep up. They are true time wasters for idle time only. Which I don't really have anymore. (I might ask myself if I every really did, or just used sites like this to Avoid. But the answer would be so obvious to even the casual observer that I wouldn't bother after all.)

The bottom line is I surf more hours in the day than I should. The other thing is, I picked the worst (or best?) time of day to restrict my usage. It's like television, prime time is after 7 pm. Without that, I go online in the mornings, which should be Productivity time. Bean's newest schedule change is having his fifth eating, staying awake for an hour or so, and going to sleep until after 11 pm. Then he has his sixth feeding and goes down till morning. This leaves the evening open and free, so after Lent, this will be when I can computerate to my heart's content. But for now, I think about how my time is not my own, it is God's. He gives me my evenings, and my days. He gives me my son to sleep or not to sleep.

On the water-only front, all's well and good. Had a real craving yesterday when feeling super thirsty, and only wanted sugar water to quench it. Papa Bean and I have developed some bad dessert-eating habits, I fear in compensation for our deprivations. This is counterproductive, both to any potential weight loss from dropping calorie-laden drinks (for me) and meat (for him), and more importantly to any spiritual growth that Lenten sacrifice is meant to encourage. But then, he has become so good at cooking soup, good hearty filling meal-like soups. Necessity/mother/invention, etc.

I can't say these are terribly deep reflections of any great spiritual significance. I'm not trying, if I'm being honest, to get much beyond whining about how this-is-hard, and I-am-weak. There's still time before Easter, perhaps I need to set aside some time to really reflect, or something.

I am finding great satisfaction in this blog, and am constantly composing posts in my head. And by constantly I mean, while breastfeeding, which feels constant, because I'm practically doing it every hour and a half. (That's only a teeny exaggeration, and let's not dwell on how much I can never spell that word correctly.) I do get pretty meta about the whole blogging process, also, so without getting overly pretentious, I intend to write about writing, or something like that, soon. Creating stuff, whether it's making music, or building a scrapbook, or writing a post - feels spiritual to me, and I want to explore why and how. Creativity is something that simultaneously brings me deeper into myself (sometimes not for better, as in, towards self-centred sort of navel gazing) and further into community (or communities, of mothers and Christians and general netizens). As much as I gave up some stuff for Lent, I think the more important development has been starting this blog around the same time, and that may be where the true faith related growth occurs.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mama Bean interrupts her internet fasting because Bean is sick

It started Friday morning, with a dribble from the right nose-ling, and a slightly watery right eye. I mentioned it to sleepy Papa Bean before leaving for work, but there were no issues during the rest of the morning. I only noticed a little more dribble later that afternoon. Is it weird that I remember these minutiae? I doubt it. All moms do this, right?

He's also been spitting up more than usual since Friday. After every feeding, just soaking his bib or clothes or Papa Bean's shirt with drool and partially digested milk. I thought maybe it's from all the extra feedings we're doing. Which, if so, is sort of counterproductive to the whole point of extra feedings. Then a bit on Friday, but mostly today, he started coughing. It seemed like just tickles from the spitting up at first, but today it started to sound more like an immune response kicking out extra mucus and buggies. Poor dear. He was cranky all day.

I just gave him his last feeding, and took his temperature just in case. It's fine. The First Cold is like a rite of passage. I feel bad, like I didn't bundle him enough in the car seat, or didn't wash my hands enough from office germs and shopping germs and life germs. I'm not really a germaphobe by nature, being blessed with a strong immune system, and being lazy, frankly. So it's weird to care about it now, and spend time thinking about where I or Bean might have picked something up.

Oh well, my breasticles will cook up some good antibodies for him, and it will all be okay. I have my provincial Chiropractors' association Annual General Meeting in the morning. I think I forgot my packet at the office, oops. I'm going for the free breakfast. Papa Bean is going to take Bean to church solo, and N is coming early to cuddle Bean while he rehearses with the worship team. She's practicing. Unless Bean is coughing more in the morning, then they'll stay home. And I'll sit in my meeting thinking I should be home, too.

Mama Bean is participating in a metanarrative called Parenthood. Come join her!

"How is motherhood? Everything it's cracked up to be!?! Be careful how you answer that; I am intending to have children one day."

This was in a facebook message from a friend I worked with at Starbucks in our Prairie Valley City. She's currently traveling in New Zealand, so I was touched she took the time to write a message. At first, I was ready to whip off a response: Motherhood is amazing! Bean is so cute and cuddly and fun! This was not at all what I expected, and so much more than I could have imagined!

And then I stopped to think about it. Is motherhood everything I thought it would be? Has being a parent been what I expected?

I appreciate her warning to be careful in my answer. Even the uninitiated realize this baby-raising, family-growing thing is not what sitcoms and romcoms and all other manner of -coms would have you believe. Though it is certainly comedic, at times.

The truth is, I don't think I had many expectations. I didn't know what being a mom would be like. I didn't spend much time around babies beforehand (though I sooo appreciate what I was able to glean from interactions with nieces and nephews and friends' kidlets.) During my pregnancy, I was completely focused on The Delivery. Maybe this is a consequence of choosing homebirth, I felt the need to really back up our decision, and sort of defend it to myself, because of all the unspoken (and spoken) concerns and judgment from others. And somehow, culturally or socially (or professionally) I had absorbed this message that giving birth was The Big Thing. I think it's akin to how The Wedding becomes this all-encompassing event, when really, it's a marriage you're getting into. Delivery just brings the baby out, but parenting... that's for life.

Everyone jokes that there are no manuals for babies. No one really knows what they're doing in the beginning, and we all just fuddle through it the same way. The babies survive, thank God, so clearly there are a multitude of ways to skin this proverbial kitten. It's trial by fire, isn't it?

Our good friends B and N are expecting this Fall. I am absolutely ecstatic for them! And for me. Excited for our friendship to grow in this dimension, too, just as we grew through university together, and getting married, and moving eastward, and now parenthood. Excited for Bean to have a little buddy. I have to restrain myself from overwhelming and oversharing and *gasp* overadvicing. Oh, yes, how quick we are to become baby-pundits ourselves!

I am just so pleased for them to experience the Joy and Wonder that I have felt since discovering Bean's existence that fateful Valentine's Day. For me, mama-hood brought me into a new community, and sharing stories and experience (and heartache and struggle) are integral to the mama-hood's function and participation therein. We've really noticed this with strangers when we're out in public; those who've had children (grandparents, especially) notice Bean through parents' eyes. They ask how old he is, they mentally compare his size and demeanor to their own children and grandchildren at that age, they comment accordingly. They want to know if we are participating as they did in this great big story called Parenthood. Those less invested in the parenthood drama notice Bean in passing, and demonstrate little curiosity. At least, that's what we've noticed.

I will tell my friend these things, that I had no expectations, that Bean surpasses them regardless. That every day is a surprise, which could mean surprise challenges and surprise struggles, but also means surprise smiles and surprise learning. And, as cliche as it is, I will tell her about the Love. How you cannot possibly imagine loving something or someone this much when you don't even know them, but it happens. And when I found that love, I wanted to tell everyone about it, and share it with other moms and parents, because I'm only pretty sure they totally understand.